Building Code Bunk Clouds Real Issue
Jeremy Stewart, President Florida Home Builders Association
April 18, 2017 – Strong building codes matter. Florida learned this the hard way from Hurricane Andrew, and has since made its building code the strongest in the nation. But building code changes injected by special interest groups and rapidly churned-out code books threaten our state’s ability to keep its code the gold standard for safety and customization.
Good changes are afoot — policy solutions being discussed in the Florida Legislature would help Florida to be the master of its own, superior building codes. But some are out to confuse you, suggesting that the policies being considered would diminish home building safety or prevent innovations. These claims are flat out false, disappointing, and the special interests behind the bunk need to be called out.
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), along with “Floridians for Safe Communities,” which was produced as a front organization against improvements to Florida’s building code policy, are using fear mongering to confuse the issue. Their use of death and destruction to cloud the conversation is a new low.
What is true? Florida upholds the strongest building codes in the nation to help prevent the tragic loss of life we saw in Andrew’s aftermath. And right now, Florida is required to take up a new edition of its building code “rule book” every three years via the ICC (International Code Council). The problem with this: It takes a year to fully digest all the code changes, requiring marketing planning and building strategy changes. Once those are confirmed, we move to an entirely new code. It is difficult for contractors and inspectors to keep up. And the vast majority of these changes have little to do with building integrity.
Two solutions are being considered: One would flip the presumption that Florida must start from scratch every three years, and would allow Florida to simply amend / add onto its own already strong, existing state code. Can you imagine the Florida Legislature wiping all statutes clean every three years and starting from scratch based on national rules? Then having to amend them to customize them for our state? That’s what we’re currently required to do with Florida building codes and hope to change with this legislation.
Another option would change the current three-year cycle to a five-year cycle, making the process of code-making more transparent, with the time this process deserves in order to review and learn about everything going into new and remodeled homes.
Either would only improve Florida’s ability to strengthen its building code.
Safe homes are built with the understanding, compliance, and enforcement of relevant standard and state-specific codes. Not in the creation of unnecessary codes through out-of-state intrusion. Florida home builders work with families every day, and they’re making commitments to safe structures. The reality is that strong homes are built through the adherence to code via continuing education and training, and through inspections — not necessarily redoing the codes as frequently as possible.
Inefficient code practice is also costly to homeowners. Keeping up with rapidly changing codes, often unnecessary and added by special interests, trickles down to home buyers. For every $1,000 increase in the price of a new affordable home in Florida, the number of households priced out of the market ranges from 21,037 to 22,974 households. Without bill passage, this could mean huge impacts on Florida’s lower-income families and single-family homes.
With a policy change, some ICC codes would not be in the Florida code, but nothing that would sacrifice safety. What would be axed are things that are unnecessary and only in there for special interest reasons. Which is why opponents are vendors in the process who manufacture items installed in homes, not those who shake hands with the consumer at end of the day.
Why then, would the ICC and its special-interest followers be pushing for the rapid code changes? Pages of reasons. The ICC publishes and sells copyrighted code books — frequent code changes mean more books printed and sold. With around 65,000 contractors/specialists in Florida, that’s some good math in favor of ICC profits in the state of Florida alone.
The only thing shaky is the bunk from special interest groups. Let’s keep Florida safe and allow our state to be the master of its own, superior building codes.
Jeremy Stewart is a homebuilder and owner of Jeremy Stewart Construction in Crestview, Florida
Established in 1949, the Florida Home Builders Association is affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Florida’s local/regional homebuilder associations. FHBA, along with its affiliates, work to create the best possible economic and regulatory environment for members to succeed.
For further information, please contact:
Allison Finley, Director of Marketing and Communications
Florida Home Builders Association
800.261.9447 | 850.766.1679