Building codes are put in place to maintain the safety and integrity of any new building construction. In Florida, understanding of, and compliance with state building codes is not only a critical element of any remodeling, renovation or new build project, but it’s also the law.

Residential and commercial structures built before 2000 or being remodeled or renovated often need to be inspected and brought up to current codes in order to receive final approval.

Florida’s often violent weather means that structures must be safely built and structurally sound under extreme conditions. Let’s explore the history of Florida from a system of local codes to a statewide system and how codes have evolved and become more complex in recent years.

Florida Codes Prior to Hurricane Andrew

It wasn’t until 1974 that Florida adopted a state minimum building code law requiring local governments to adopt and enforce a building code to ensure minimum public health and safety standards. The state provided four models for local governments to consider and adopt. In this first model, the role of the state was limited, local governments were allowed to amend and enforce local codes however they decided.

In 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida and revealed the problems and deficiencies within the system. Andrew was Floridas worst insurance crisis in history and it became obvious that the administration and enforcement of codes was a statewide issue. Poor compliance in a single county could wreak havoc for homeowners, contractors, and developers across the state.

Creating Statewide Codes After Andrew

In 1996 Florida created the Florida Building Code Study Commission to review the current standards and local codes created in 1974 and modernize the system. The 16-month study found a complex, confusing web of local building codes and regulations, administered and enforced differently by over 400 local and state agencies responsible for building codes. The main issue was compliance and the Commission called for strengthening compliance within the system.

In 1998 the State Legislator adopted the Commission’s recommendations and amended Chapter 533 of the Florida Statues to create a minimum standard that is enforced locally. In 2002, the Florida Building Code was developed and maintained by the Florida Building Commission. These codes supersede all local building codes. Currently, the Building Codes are updated every three years and may be amended annually to incorporate interpretation and clarifications.

The Importance of Compliance

The codes were put into place to ensure the health and safety of the public in both commercial and residential buildings throughout the state. Along with providing standardization of the design, construction and compliance processes codes include critical regulations for the health, safety and welfare of the building occupants as well as for first responders during any emergency.

Codes address structural integrity, stability, sanitation, light, ventilation, energy conservation and means of egress. The code is flexible allowing contractors the ability to choose the materials and means they use to meet compliance.

Codes can be complex and often confusing. Along with the state codes, there are also Federal codes such as the ADA which will need to be considered. In many cases, working with an expert consultant who is well versed in Federal standards and the Florida Building Codes can be a smart choice.

Because Florida updates codes every three years, and can make changes annually as needed, staying up-to-date with the current codes can be a challenge for many and even those in the building trades. Working with an expert consultant can keep your project on track, and legally compliant.