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Hurricane Andrew disaster brought statewide system of building codes

Hurricane Andrew's greatest impact on the building industry wasn't stronger nails or bigger trusses.

It was a statewide building-code system.

Florida now regulates the inspection and enforcement of building codes and requires training and licensing for building officials and contractors. Continuing education is also required.

Building officials and contractors can now be disciplined for not meeting requirements — something not done in 1992.

"This is the most fundamental change," said Douglas Buck, a director at the Florida Home Builders Association. "It's not just the building codes. It's whether you are complying with the codes."

On July 1, 2001, after fierce debate, the state adopted the stricter building codes with special provisions for new homes near the coast. The statewide system covers everything from roofing requirements to inspections to window protection.

It also required that many new coastal homes and buildings include hurricane shutters, impact-resistant glass or special internal construction designed to strengthen walls. The new code system unified hundreds of local building codes throughout the state.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties also adopted a stricter building code after Hurricane Andrew.

The tougher requirements now stand out.

In January, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety recognized Florida for having one of the best code systems in the county. The group examined 18 hurricane-prone states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Texas.

Florida shared the top ranking with Virginia. Mississippi ranked last.

Prior to Andrew, Buck said it was common for building inspectors to not know the construction standards needed in their jurisdictions.

While working in state government, Buck helped create the licensing, education and training for the industry.

Still, he said, there is room for improvement.

"Your code is only as good as your system to make sure you're compliant," Buck said. "Once you're compliant, you can ask if we need more codes."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Hurricane Andrew disaster brought statewide system of building codes 05/18/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 1:47pm]
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