Volume 8, Issue 3 - March 2007


Spring Break in Saint Augustine?
Momentous Meetings Scheduled in Florida
by Michael Fischer

The Florida Building Commission’s (FBC) 2007 building code development process gets underway in March with two separate weeks of activity. First, the Florida technical advisory committees (TAC) will meet to review proposed modifications to the Florida codes during the week of March 12. These sessions arrive on the heels of the February FBC meetings. 

A Matter of Life
Much has changed since the Florida legislature’s recent mandates to the FBC regarding the historical exemption from wind-borne debris requirements in the panhandle of Florida and a directive for the FBC to develop “code-plus” programs intended to increase building performance. The commission is now under marching orders to look for continued gains in the structural integrity of Florida’s new homes. During the FBC meetings in February, legislative discussions were held before the backdrop of recent tornado deaths in central Florida. The FBC deliberations took on a somber note as commissioners considered the direct impact their actions can have on matters of life and death. The FBC is scheduled to meet March 26-28 also in Saint Augustine, to continue planning for the implementation of the legislative directives.

By embarking on this new code development cycle, the FBC hopes to integrate the 2006 International Codes, with Florida-specific amendments, into the state’s construction requirements. After the February TAC meetings, the FBC will review recommendations during the second week of May in Tampa and issue its findings. 

The code-plus programs included in the insurance bill will lead to opportunities for products and systems that are able to demonstrate enhanced performance in tropical storm and hurricane conditions. The catch is that any properties that depend upon the “Citizens Property Insurance” program after January 1, 2009, will be required to implement the code-plus program. This defacto mandatory requirement provides a challenge and opportunity to door and window producers. 

A Testing Challenge 
Current code requirements for protection from wind-borne debris are based upon a set of pass-fail criteria. While resistance to wind load pressures vary based upon regions and requirements, impact protection standards offer no relative improvements. It would be a simple matter to demonstrate enhanced wind resistance by adding an additional safety factor to the wind pressure. For example, if the standard code requirement for a particular application were 50 pounds per square foot (psf), substituting a 60 psf window would demonstrate a 20 percent increase in wind resistance. Without a different approach to measuring resistance to wind-borne debris impact, however, upgrades might be harder to quantify. 

There are cyclic pressure measurements contained within the current testing requirements under ASTM E1996 that might be considered when combining impact and pressure testing. The window industry will need to provide demonstrated levels of enhanced performance under existing test protocols (or with newly developed test criteria) to satisfy the FBC and the Florida legislature that windows will be an important component of such a code-plus program. The FBC work plan will require a report on the code-plus plan in its 2008 report to the state legislature. That timetable does not leave a lot of time for standard development.

With the needs of the changing environment in mind, WDMA will continue to produce and foster standards that aid the construction community in meeting code and regulatory requirements. And, as the demand from regulators, insurers and consumers for stronger construction continues to escalate, the value of high-performance window systems tested to tougher standards will continue to increase. Homebuilders will look to the fenestration industry to push the envelope with stronger products. 

Michael Fischer of the Kellen Company serves as director of codes and regulatory compliance for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. He may be reached at MFischer@wdma.com.


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