Florida Continues to Make Code News

The state of Florida finalized the 6th edition of its building code, and a solar mandate is approved in South Miami.

The 6th edition of the Florida Building Code was finalized by the Florida Building Commission in early July. While it is the state’s own code, it is largely based on the 2015 I-Codes and the National Electrical Code. This means it will include the ERI path found in the 2015 IECC. This new addition dovetails with last month’s announcement of a Certified Ratings Program sponsored by the FHBA.

In addition to energy ratings, builders will also be able to get over 20 other certifications, including certified blower door and duct blaster tests. The updated code will go into effect on December 31, 2017.

In mid-July, the city of South Miami voted 4-1 in favor of a solar requirement for both new homes and major renovations. The new regulation goes into effect on September 18, 2017.

According to a July 18 article by Carli Teproff, “New Homes Will Now Require Solar Panels in South Miami, a First in Florida”:

“Under the rules, new residential construction would require 175 square feet of solar panel to be installed per 1,000 square feet of sunlit roof area, or 2.75 kw per 1,000 square feet of living space, whichever is less. If the house is built under existing trees, the shade may exempt it. Home renovations that replace more than 75% of the structure or extend the structure by more than 75% would also have to follow the new ordinance.”

Mayor Philip Stoddard, Ph.D., who has been a professor of biology at Florida International University for 12 years, was a major proponent of the measure. “Solar reduces the cost of home ownership,” he says. “It makes houses sell faster, it returns more to a builder, it makes local jobs, and most importantly, it reduces carbon emissions today to help our children and grandchildren have a better future tomorrow.”

Related Story: Watch Mayor Stoddard speak at the 2017 Sustainability Symposium.

While this kind of requirement exists in a handful of California jurisdictions, this is the first of its kind outside of California.

The Builders Association of South Florida (BASF) is not too pleased with the City’s decision. Predictably, they would rather see something voluntary implemented, or see the city provide tax incentives to steer homeowners and homebuyers towards sustainability. The BASF also felt the measure should have been proposed for the state building code, rather than at the municipal level.

Truly Burton, executive vice president of the BASF, said in the July 25 article, “Solar Mandate in South Miami Raises Concerns” in NAHB Now: “The process was confusing and undermined the integrity of the Florida Building Commission and Florida Building Code.”

The BASF seems to be employing some odd logic. If such a measure were introduced into the state code, there might be a number of jurisdictions on both sides of this issue, and then many more people might be upset. And since the BASF is clearly unhappy with one city’s adoption of this requirement, it would only make sense that they would be extremely unhappy if many southern Florida cities started requiring solar.

It’s also important to note that the City Council delayed voting on the measure for nearly a month while they looked into any building code issues. This was one city’s decision to modify their own requirements, which they have every right to do. What will be interesting to track is if any other Florida jurisdictions follow suit. One would think it would be inevitable in a state known for its copious amounts of sunshine.