Q&A – How Do Florida’s Building Codes Compare To Other States?

Residential Building In Miami Partially Collapsed

Photo: Getty Images North America

Today’s entry: I understand the Champlain Tower was built in the early ’80s and building codes have changed considerably since then but I keep hearing officials talk about the need to revisit the current building code. I thought Florida’s building code was already the most stringent. Is that not the case? 

Bottom Line: I think the key to the conversation is less about whether Florida’s current building code is stringent as much as if there’s room to improve it based on the tragedy we’ve witnessed in Surfside. Of course, Hurricane Andrew’s lessons forever changed Florida’s building code, but tweaks to it are still regularly made with the most recent tweaks as recent as last year. Prior to that, it was 2017, 2014, 2010 and so on, you get the idea.

If we learn something new that can lead to safer construction, it’s applied, and a new code is issued. It’s likely that by the time the investigation into the Champlain Towers South building is concluded, we’ll have new code that reflects those findings. While the information we already know points towards warnings that may not have been acted on time, it stands to reason that there will be takeaways that lead to changes to make safer structures.

Already, it’s likely the 40 year-building inspection process will be moved up. Perhaps 20–25-year inspections are already being discussed. I’d expect to see a statewide adopted policy with a narrower timeline attached. I'd also expect mandatory action to be required when structural issues are identified within inspection reports, like what was identified in the 2018 building report. 

Now, with all of that being said, you’re right. Florida’s building code is ranked first nationally according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. Florida is number one with a building score of 95 out of 100. Plus, Florida’s code adopts 49 of 50 recommended best practices. By contrast, Delaware is last with a score of just 17 out of 100.

Still, as strong as our best in the country building code is, there’s still slight room for improvement according to the Institute and the tragedy in Surfside is liable to be the catalyst to do it. Notably, yesterday Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava indicated that the County’s mandate to review all buildings 40 years and older, revealed one building with issues on four balconies sufficient that she ordered an evacuation of them and immediate repairs for them. I suspect that won’t be the last. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

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