Volume 48, Issue 11- November 2013

Codes & Regulations

Some Hurricane-Prone States Tighten Regs; Others Loosen Them

Tammy Solomon doesn’t think the statute that requires wind- and impact-resistant glass on exterior glass openings throughout most of Florida should be a one-size-fits-all mandate.

Solomon, the purchaser/buyer at Jacksonville-based First Coast Glass and Repair, says flying debris is hardly the primary worry for her many clients who live on or near a beach in the state’s northeast corridor.

“Flying debris isn’t much of a concern when you live 100 feet off the ocean, so I’d hate to be told that I had to put all this money into laminated exterior windows,” she says. “Basically, your house is just going to be floating in the ocean with nice impact windows.”

Solomon is hardly alone in that sentiment, explaining why so many First Coast customers in nearby Nassau County were thrilled when their county lifted its impact glass code requirements last year.

She says the decision has been a boon for business.

“I think the insurance companies were sold on that, that laminated glass was the perfect solution, that it wasn’t going to break and that it was going to save the homeowner,” she says. “But laminated glass does break and it costs three times the money to replace. A lot of people don’t want to pay the extra money.”

But not everybody in Florida is on board with that thinking, explaining why the state continues to strengthen its overall residential building codes in the hopes of averting previous disasters such as Hurricane Andrew, whose swath of destruction across South Florida in terms of loss of both property and human life in 1992 were exacerbated by flimsy building codes that were inadequate in keeping deadly hurricane winds out of buildings and residences.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recently lauded Florida and Virginia for having done the best job of updating their residential building codes of the 18 coastal states prone to hurricanes. Others cited for improving their standards included South Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Georgia, New York and Alabama.

But New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Texas, Delaware and Mississippi have made no changes since the IBHS’s original report in January 2012, while North Carolina and Louisiana were listed as having taken negative action.

“This update provides each state a useful analysis of their latest building code activities and what steps they can take to better protect their communities,” says Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “It also gives interested citizens useful information so that they can understand the need for, and demand, better building codes.”

Among the many things Florida requires are residential windows capable of withstanding wind speeds of at least 115 miles per hour, impact-resistant glass for all exterior doors and windows and shutters to further protect them.

State officials say they’re proud of what they’ve done to make their citizens safer.

“Overall, the changes have provided for minimum structural requirements to ensure that buildings in the [high-wind areas] would withstand the impact of wind-borne debris and hurricane-force winds,” says Beth Frady, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Solomon, however, doesn’t think the same rules should necessarily apply to the northeast part of Florida, which hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane since Dora slammed ashore in 1964, killing five people and causing more than $200 million in damage.

“In a lot of ways, it might be worth taking the risk,” she says. “We’ve had a good year so far. Hopefully, it will stay that way.” —John Hollis

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