Volume 50, Issue 9 - September 2015


Will Florida Code Changes Boost Window Prices?

On June 30, the Florida Building Code’s 5th Edition went into effect. One of the biggest changes involves dropping the prescriptive solar heat gain coefficient for residential windows from 0.30 to 0.25.

The code changes have many in the industry wondering if the cost of windows in Florida will be going up. The answer? Not necessarily.

“If you can replace a window with monolithic glass, that will be a lower cost than with low-E IG,” says Dean Ruark, PE, PGT Industries. “However, it’s typically not a significant cost addition. What’s required is commonly used in the marketplace, and becoming more common in Florida as a market trend and consumer need, even without the code requiring it.”

At least for one company, window prices aren’t going up.

“We’ve had these windows that meet the code since day one,” says Earl Rahn, president of NewSouth. He adds that the company, which has four locations in Florida, sells the same windows in all its locations. “We just entered the southeast Florida market [West Palm Beach], and we use the same windows there that we put in everyone else’s home in Florida.”

Rahn says he is thrilled that his company will no longer “be competing with the low-priced, non-energy-efficient window.”

The new code, which is laid out like the 2012 IECC with separate residential and commercial chapters, has been a topic of discussion among the industry given that the stringency of the state’s codes can serve as a model for future developments in other parts of the United States.

Key changes include a shift in climate zone, as Zone 1, the most southern zone, was expanded to cover more ground to its north.

Earlier this year, Arlene Z. Stewart of AZS Consulting gave attendees of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) 2015 Winter Conference an update on the new code. She said other basic changes are that the code no longer utilizes a multiplier, and that there is a penalty for using more than 15 percent glass, but no benefit of using less.

In the new code, she said, the 30-percent rule also has new clarification. The Florida statute says the energy code does not apply to renovated buildings where changes are less than 30 percent of the assessed value of the building.

Meanwhile, Stewart said code requirements for residential windows require an IG unit, and with impact resistance on one side of the glass. For commercial, she said the numbers are very similar and just as stringent. Stewart explained that the increase in stringency has a direct impact on the IG market because windows can make or break calculations and certifications.

Who “Owns” the Construction Codes?

The state of Georgia has filed a lawsuit against public-domain activist Carl Malamud for publishing the state’s entire legal code online. It’s the latest legal battle for a man who is currently being sued by organizations that develop construction standards—including ones used for glazing, doors and windows—that are then incorporated into state building codes.

The Georgia lawsuit claims that making the annotated code available online for free violates copyright law. The annotated code is more comprehensive than the basic code, which carries no copyright restrictions. It includes summaries of cases and legal opinions interpreting the law, and the state of Georgia claims that each of those is “an original and creative work of authorship that is protected by copyrights owned by the state of Georgia,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The lawsuit is nothing new for Malamud’s organization, Public Resource.org, which buys copies of building standards and legal codes and allegedly reposts them online for free.

Public Resource.org is currently being sued for copyright infringement by the American Society for Testing and Materials, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the National Fire Protection Association.

In the suit, filed in August 2013, the organizations contend that copyright protection is essential because they spend a lot of money and effort working on codes, according to a report from the Washington Post.

“The development of standards by private organizations allows for private actors to bear the significant costs of creating standards,” the plaintiffs write in their lawsuit. “Plaintiffs underwrite—either entirely or in substantial part—the costs they incur in creating the standards through the revenues derived from the sales or licensing of their copyright-protected standards.”

Malamud’s organization, which first published California’s building code online in 2008, claims it’s not fair to make businesses and the public purchase complete access to laws they’re forced to obey.

“Legislatures and administrative agencies have frequently enacted into law, and enforced, construction, fire, and other public safety codes,” Public Resource.org writes in its answer to the lawsuit. “Public safety codes govern

essential aspects of everyday life ... They are laws.”

A decision in the case is pending.

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