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Envelope Product Approvals (Florida or Local)

The state of Florida has a unified code composed of two sections with product approval systems for each section.  Each section has similar but different code requirements, approved test labs, testing standards, evaluation criteria, and quality assurance verification. The state section, as it is commonly referred to, includes 65 of 67 counties.  The High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) with its long standing stringent approval system is geographically defined as Dade (Miami) and Broward (Fort Lauderdale) counties only.  Florida law requires building envelope components and systems to have either a state or local product approval for demonstrating resistance to structural wind loads required in the current code edition as a condition for site specific permit verification. A Miami-Dade NOA by definition is a local product approval for HVHZ. Florida adopts a new code every three years plus annual supplements, and additional code changes have been mandated by the Florida Legislature as a result of recent hurricanes.

Any portion of the state with a minimum wind design velocity of 100 MPH or greater is defined by ASCE-7 as a Hurricane Prone Region for structural design.  The Wind-Borne Debris Region addresses impact resistance and applies generally for wind zones of 120 MPH or greater (with exemptions and inclusions that have changed almost annually for the past several years).  Impact resistance is mandatory for approval on some products and optional for others.  For specific projects, impact resistance may be required on approved products where mandatory impact tests are not required by minimal approval criteria.

The Building Code is generally the minimum acceptable public standard to protect life and property. Many specific projects require above code minimum performance due to intended use, owner preference or insurance stipulation.

What is required for a Florida Product Approval?  The two main basic requirements for a product approval are laboratory-tested resistance for structural wind loads and an ISO-based production quality assurance program that is audited by an approved third party. The technical approval criteria is based on 6 volumes in the current code with over 800 referenced standards for the intended use within the product approval categories and subcategoriesInterpretation of the criteria for any given product/assembly and the specific use often requires a consensus of the evaluation engineer, test laboratory, validation professional and the code approval authorities. The goal is to demonstrate compliance with standards described in either the state or HVHZ sections of the code or to meet the intent of the code for products/uses not clearly described.  Some products are specifically described in the Code with obvious test standards, but many products are not. For products/uses which are not clearly described in the Code, this professional consensus of technical requirements and test criteria is crucial for a timely approval.

Florida Product Approvals (Evaluations or Validations) for the state section are a CBUCK core service in a system that is maturing since its inception in 2003.This process is becoming more complex due to pressure from recent hurricanes, legislative mandates, insurance underwriting, annual code changes / supplements, and consumer demand. We begin by reviewing your marketing goals and then develop the project scope and budget based on products, models, intended use, Rule 9B-72 categories and subcategories, acceptance criteria extracted from the codes, standards and number of test components/assemblies. This process has many steps which will require multiple decisions on your part, CBUCK will provide you with the advice and guidance to facilitate your decision-making and expedite your product to market. Jimmy Buckner, PE, SECB, is a registered Florida Evaluation and Validation Engineer who has been a stakeholder in the development of the Florida Product Approval System since its effective date in October 2003.

A Miami-Dade Notice Of Acceptance (NOA) approval is a local product approval for the more stringent code and approval criteria in the HVHZ. Miami-Dade is phasing in a "Seal of Approval" program effective January 1, 2008. Miami-Dade Code Compliance Office (BCCO) evaluates products and assemblies for compliance with the HVHZ standards and the Board of Rules and Appeals grants Notice of Acceptance (NOA) Approvals. Florida Law allows an option of obtaining a state approval for use in HVHZ. This is NOT intended to lower the HVHZ standards and there are several very important issues that must be considered before pursuing this option.  To begin with the product must be tested to the HVHZs higher standards, this usually requires additional test sample quantities. It also typically requires additional properties, durability, and weather resistance testing.  The results must then be evaluated to the Miami-Dades detailed Testing Application Standards (TAS) with HVHZ safety factor requirements.  Lastly, and most important from a market pricing prospective, the approval must include Limits Of Use linked to the more restrictive HVHZ code that often add to the cost for the installed product.  This can unfavorably impact state-wide clients that are not aware that the HVHZ requirements will also apply outside the HVHZ if the approval is limited to HVHZ requirements.  Also the state approvals for HVHZ are subject to additional review inside the HVHZ by Miami-Dade building code compliance which often extends the time for permitting.  If the marketing plans include the HVHZ area, we usually recommend obtaining a Miami-Dade NOA because it is more recognized by building officials, design professionals and contractors.  In addition most insurance companies are inclined to give more favorable rates for NOA products, and this is an ever-increasing financial issue that building owners are considering in construction decision-making. Jimmy Buckner, PE, SECB is a Miami-Dade Approved Laboratory Test Engineer and has been involved with NOA Approvals since 1998.

Both systems are limited in scope and do not address other code requirements for the product and its intended use for a specific project. Some of the items outside the approval scope may include fire resistance, thermal properties, durability, safety code standards and industry group standards.    CBUCKs Code Evaluation Research Reports (CERR) program evaluates properties and uses outside the mandatory scope research report and provides building officials, design professionals, contractors, owners, and insurance companies with an independent third party validation of a product's qualifications and quality to meet code standards. The report can address compliance with standards of the current Florida Building Code edition (CERR-FBC). Additional reports can address structural and non-structural standards for the current International Building Codes(CERR-IBC).

     CBUCK begins the process matching your marketing goals to appropriate building code sections and geographic areas. We then develop an acceptance criteria consensus in order to present you with options to maximize your investment in testing and evaluation. Selecting the number of product models and the types of assemblies to be tested, along with how this affects the limits of use for each type of report is complex and greatly determines cost. CBUCK's mission is to expedite the approval process though the regulatory maze so that clients benefit from product sales.