Florida building codes thwarted hurricane damage, report shows [3-26-18]
Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
By Mary Shanklin
Published March 26, 2018
Florida ranked top in the nation for its building codes, according to a new report that cited newer construction better withstanding hurricane damage.
The nation’s biggest hurricane target unseated the previous top state, which had been Virginia, for the top ranking, according to the building-code survey by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. The only thing coming between Florida and a perfect score this year was the state’s lack of continuing education requirements for building officials.
“One of our messages is that we shouldn’t roll back what we’ve got,” said Julie Rochman, president of the institute, which is based in Tampa. “That’s really important.”
The verdict on Florida’s building regulations was evident after Hurricane Irma ripped through the state starting Sept. 10, the institute reported this week. About 80 percent of homes in its path had been built after the state revamped construction codes as a result of the devastation from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to the Institute. Officials learned from Hurricane Charley in 2004 that houses built after the mid-1990s better withstood the winds. More recent damage tolls from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have not detailed damage by the age of the structure, the report stated.
Lee Steinhauer, government affairs director for the Greater Orlando Builders Association, said the state has recently moved toward prioritizing Florida-specific regulations while still adhering to internationally recognized standards.
“One of the challenges with any code or any law is that they are a little behind with where technology is, or where the industry is,” he added.
Despite the rigid building rules, Florida’s position on the front lines of hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters makes it the highest-cost state for homeowner insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Also, research reported by insurance.com showed Floridians paid an average $3,575 on a $200,000 policy with a $1,000 deductible. That’s almost double the national average for similar coverage.
Insurance institute officials said the state faces larger natural threats and Florida should focus on safety concerns for older homes and manufactured housing installations.
David O. Prevatt, a University of Florida Associate Civil and Coastal Engineering Professor, said Florida leads in testing wind-resistant building techniques with input from contractors, engineers, building officials and others. The state also trains building officials and contractors on ways to minimize wind damage. He advocated doing more to protect existing structures.
“Florida must still confront the challenge of addressing the high vulnerability of existing buildings which are a large proportion of the total inventory,” said Prevatt, who’s also associate director of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure center. “Many existing structures lack the wind-resilient details from latest codes and as a result may suffer more damage.”