George McCaw of Escambia County Florida owns and operates a real estate development firm, S.E Buildcorp LLC. In the following article, George McCaw discusses the building codes in Florida, how they differ from other states and how these codes are preventing serious damages to homes and businesses during hurricane season.
Since 1851, Florida has been hit by more than 500 tropical storms with only 18 hurricane seasons passing without an event. Understandably, the state has worked hard to ensure that its infrastructure and housing are built to withstand the strongest winds and rains. However, as storms continually grow stronger, the state has had to amend its building codes, first in 1994 and, most recently, in 2020 reports George McCaw of S.E Buildcorp LLC and Escambia County Florida.
The most recent codes—the 7th edition—added requirements for more resilient construction, such as the use of sturdier underlays and wind-resistant photovoltaic equipment. The code also includes a wind-speed map specific to Risk Category IV buildings based on data over the last 3,000 years. To better understand the full scope of Florida’s building codes and their importance, George McCaw explores some of the finer details more closely.
Why Florida is Continuously Updating Building Codes
Prior to the 1970s, Florida didn’t have government-mandated building codes but that changed when the state legislature required local districts to pass minimum building standards in 1974. For the next 20 years, it was up to the individual counties to determine what those standards were, which often resulted in a patchwork of inconsistent and often outdated rules explains George McCaw.
However, this all changed in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew swept across the state. The Category 5 hurricane caused an estimated $27.3 billion in damage and left more than 160,000 people homeless. In response, the state legislature created the Florida Building Commission and tasked it with creating a statewide building code explains George McCaw of S.E Buildcorp LLC and Escambia County Florida.
The first edition of the code was published in 1994 and has been updated every three to four years since then. The most recent update to the code was published in 2020 in response to the increasing strength and frequency of hurricanes in the state.
How the 7th Edition of the Florida Building Codes Changed Requirements
George McCaw says that the 7th edition of the code includes several new requirements that should help homes stand up to stronger winds and rainfall. Many of these amendments and added clauses are designed to strengthen rooftops, which are often the most affected during a hurricane. For example, exterior elevated flooring systems must be installed as a roofing system to keep them from flying away during a storm.
Additionally, George McCaw of S.E Buildcorp LLC and Escambia County Florida says that the newest edition of the building codes provides an exemption for pools and spas as long as they are built above a certain elevation or constructed to withstand flood forces. They must also have branch circuits that are protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters.
Even regulations concerning metal flagpoles have been altered in the most recent edition. Although there was a clause in the 6th Edition, the latest amendment has updated wind speed resistance to keep up with the growing strength and prevalence of modern hurricane winds. All of these amendments should help to keep Floridians and their homes safe during even the most intense of storms.
Comparing Florida’s Building Codes to Other States
George McCaw explains that Florida’s state building codes are based on the International Building Code, which most other states follow but, unlike its neighbors, Florida is known for its particularly strict standards and interpretation. Nationally, it ranks #1 for the best constructions, with an average building score of 95 out of 100. The state also requires all buildings to implement 49 of the IBC’s 50 recommended best practices.
Thanks to its strict code requirements and regular updates, Florida is often used as a model for other states when they are revising or creating their own codes. In fact, the Southern Building Code Congress International has even created a “Florida Building Code” that other states can adopt if they choose explains George McCaw.
While some may view the state’s stringent codes as a hassle, they have proven to be effective in protecting both people and property. In fact, a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety found that, when compared to homes built to code in other states, those in Florida were twice as likely to remain standing after a hurricane states George McCaw of S.E Buildcorp LLC and Escambia County Florida.
The study also found that, while the cost of construction was about the same, the cost of repairs was significantly lower for homes in Florida. This is likely due to the fact that the code requirements are designed to prevent damage from occurring in the first place.
The Bottom Line
Florida’s building codes are among the most stringent in the nation and are regularly updated to reflect the latest best practices. These codes are in place to protect both people and property and have been shown to be effective in reducing damage and repairs after a hurricane.