Miami-Dade County and ARMA Team Up to Update High-Wind Codes

ARMA awarded the Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources Department the 2017 ARMA Public Partnership Award.

ARMA awarded the Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources Department the 2017 ARMA Public Partnership Award. Aaron R. Phillips, Corporate Director of Technical Services at TAMKO Building Products and chair of the ARMA Codes Steering Group, presented the award to Michael Goolsby and Miami-Dade team members who worked on the project. Pictured at the ceremony are (from left) Eduardo Fernandez, Gaspar Rodriguez, Michael Goolsby, Aaron Phillips, Alex Tigera and Jorge Acebo.

In the aftermath of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, the entire building code for South Florida was rebuilt from the ground up. When it was launched in 1994, the South Florida Building Code was a groundbreaking document that set new roofing application standards and testing protocols for every component and system in the building envelope. More than two decades later, it was clear the building code for Miami-Dade County’s high-velocity hurricane zone (HVHZ) needed to be updated. Beginning in 2014, Miami-Dade County officials worked with the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) and others in the roofing industry to ensure the current code language was clear and up to date.

Two-and-a-half years later, their work is complete. The 2017 Florida Building Code is scheduled for implementation on Jan. 1, 2018, and it will include every one of the proposals and public comments jointly submitted by ARMA and Miami-Dade. As a result of this successful collaboration, ARMA presented the Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources Department with the inaugural ARMA Public Partnership Award in 2017 for their work together in updating the building codes for the HVHZ.

Members of the joint task force on the project shared their thoughts on the experience with Roofing, including Mike Fischer, ARMA’s Vice President of Codes & Regulatory Compliance; Michael Goolsby, Miami-Dade Board and Code Administration Division Director; Jorge Acebo, Roofing Product Control Examiner; Alex Tigera, Roofing Product Control Examiner; and Gaspar Rodriguez, Code Compliance and Training Officer, Roofing.

They all believe this collaboration between industry and government could serve as a successful model for other industry trade associations and other code bodies to follow. “This kind of cooperation between a public regulator and a private trade association is rare enough,” says Fischer. “The overwhelmingly positive results are unprecedented.”

The Problems

Miami-Dade staff and ARMA representatives both saw shortcomings in the roofing requirements for HVHZ. There were outdated references that needed to be removed, including test standards that were out of date. This often resulted in questions that slowed down the product approval review process. Members of the roofing industry also wanted to explore coordinating the Miami-Dade HVHZ protocols with other national testing requirements to further streamline testing procedures.

Fischer summed up ARMA’s goals this way: “ARMA is a responsible advocate for the asphalt roofing industry. We take that role seriously. We are an advocate. Our job is to represent the collective interests of the producers, but we try to be responsible about it. And it’s that drive to be responsible which led us to this partnership with the Miami-Dade staff.”

At the first meeting between ARMA and Miami-Dade, Fischer tried to break the ice. “The first thing we said when we came into that meeting was, ‘Hi, we’re from industry and we’re here to help,’” Fischer recalls. “I will tell you that when we started that meeting in the morning, the Miami-Dade staff was probably skeptical of what we were there for. By the end of the day, we had laid out a project plan of how we were going to work together, and that set the tone for the rest of the project.”

Fischer knew it would take the two entities working together to get things done. “In the Florida process, we knew we had to work with Miami-Dade, as they are a key stakeholder. We brought in other roof covering manufacturers for some of the discussions, and we also talked to the FRSA, the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Association—the contractors—so they were at the table for quite a bit of this as well.”
ARMA set up a special task group to focus on the Miami-Dade protocols. The task force went through documents one by one with members of Miami-Dade group, identifying problems and sections that were out of date. They hashed out compromises when they didn’t agree.

Protecting the Public

Goolsby worked on the project on behalf of Miami-Dade along with members of his team including Acebo, Tigera and Rodriguez. “We cover a lot of territory,” notes Goolsby. “We maintain the building code and write the building code, but we also oversee all of the contractor licensing in Miami-Dade County. We have about 15,000 local licensed contractors. Of course, we handle product approvals, and we also service all of the boards here. We have a board of rules and appeals. We also oversee 35 building departments throughout Miami-Dade County. We try to make sure the code is uniformly enforced in all of those jurisdictions. So, we cover a lot of bases.”

The top priority is protecting the public. “In a general sense, we provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Goolsby says, “But it’s these issues of life safety that are the most critical.”
Evacuating South Florida is difficult, so the residential portions of the code were written under the assumption that many people might have to ride out a storm in their homes. “We wanted their home to be just as strong as any commercial structure,” says Goolsby.

Acebo notes that ensuring the code is properly followed is as crucial as the code itself. He believes the inspectors’ role includes reassuring homeowners that systems are being installed correctly. “It’s important to us to fulfill our role to provide independent corroboration that the work is being done and installed properly,” he says. “The great thing about this particular effort is that it was truly collaborative. It was great to work with them and establish the language that was common with other jurisdictions or other certification agencies.”

Promising Results

Members of the joint task force agree that the changes make the code easier to understand. They also should streamline product approvals process.

“These updates definitely help the manufacturers get through the product approval process, specifically for Miami-Dade HVHZ requirements,” Fischer states. “It also helps the roofing contractor because we made sure the documents have the installation language updated, so it gives better direction to the installers of the products. And that trickles up to the general contractors in new construction, as it speeds up their processes and takes out some burdens.”

“At the end of the day, as a responsible advocate, one of ARMA’s main motivators was to make sure their industry’s products get installed the way they are intended to be installed,” Fischer continues. “That benefits the end user—the building owner and building occupant.”

Acebo agrees that the approvals process helps everyone—homeowners, contractors, manufacturers and inspectors. “If questions come out of the field from homeowners, manufacturers or contractors as to whether something is being applied or used properly, we can serve as that independent third party that doesn’t really have a stake in it other than to serve as an arbitrator who can clearly indicate whether something is right or not according to what has been provided and tested.”

The collaboration was so successful that the task force is already looking at other changes in the future. The Miami-Dade code is used as a model for other code bodies, and the joint task force could serve in that role as well, according to Fischer. “This is a model of collaboration between a governmental agency and private industry groups that will serve us well,” he says. “We are going to continue to do this with other groups, and frankly we’re going to continue doing it with Miami-Dade because this process isn’t ever done. Things will always be changing and we always have to keep up to date.”

The Building Industry Is Working to Reduce Long-term Costs and Limit Disruptions of Extreme Events

“Resilience is the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and recover rapidly from deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring threats or incidents.” —White House Presidential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm. Insured losses topped $41 billion, the costliest U.S. catastrophe in the history of the industry. Studies following the storm indicated that lax enforcement of building codes had significantly increased the number and severity of claims and structural losses. Researchers at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, found that if stronger building codes had been in place, wind damages from Hurricane Katrina would have been reduced by a staggering 80 percent. With one storm, resiliency went from a post-event adjective to a global movement calling for better preparation, response and recovery—not if but when the next major disaster strikes.

CHALLENGES OF AN AGING INFRASTRUCTURE

We can all agree that the U.S. building stock and infrastructure are old and woefully unprepared for climatic events, which will occur in the years ahead. Moving forward, engineering has to be more focused on risk management; historical weather patterns don’t matter because the past is no longer a reliable map for future building-code requirements. On community-wide and building-specific levels, conscientious groups are creating plans to deal with robust weather, climatic events and national security threats through changing codes and standards to improve their capacity to withstand, absorb and recover from stress.

Improvements to infrastructure resiliency, whether they are called risk-management strategies, extreme-weather preparedness or climate-change adaptation, can help a region bounce back quickly from the next storm at considerably less cost. Two years ago, leading groups in America’s design and construction industry issued an Industry Statement on Resiliency, which stated: “We recognize that natural and manmade hazards pose an increasing threat to the safety of the public and the vitality of our nation. Aging infrastructure and disasters result in unacceptable losses of life and property, straining our nation’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner. We further recognize that contemporary planning, building materials, and design, construction and operational techniques can make our communities more resilient to these threats.”

With these principles in mind, there has been a coordinated effort to revolutionize building standards to respond to higher demands.

STRENGTHENING BUILDING STANDARDS

Resiliency begins with ensuring that buildings are constructed and renovated in accordance with modern building codes and designed to evolve with change in the built and natural environment. In addition to protecting the lives of occupants, buildings that are designed for resilience can rapidly re-cover from a disruptive event, allowing continuity of operations that can liter- ally save lives.

Disasters are expensive to respond to, but much of the destruction can be prevented with cost-effective mitigation features and advanced planning. A 2005 study funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Emergency Management Agency and conducted by the Washington-based National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multi-hazard Mitigation Council found that every dollar spent on mitigation would save $4 in losses. Improved building-code requirements during the past decade have been the single, unifying force in driving high-performing and more resilient building envelopes, especially in states that have taken the initiative to extend these requirements to existing buildings.

MITIGATION IS COST-EFFECTIVE IN THE LONG TERM

In California, there is an oft-repeated saying that “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.” Second only to Alaska in frequency of earthquakes and with a much higher population density, California has made seismic-code upgrades a priority, even in the face of financial constraints. Last year, Los Angeles passed an ambitious bill requiring 15,000 buildings and homes to be retrofitted to meet modern codes. Without the changes, a major earth- quake could seriously damage the city’s economic viability: Large swaths of housing could be destroyed, commercial areas could become uninhabitable and the city would face an uphill battle to regain its economic footing. As L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo said, “Why are we waiting for an earthquake and then committed to spending billions of dollars, when we can spend millions of dollars before the earthquake, avoid the trauma, avoid the loss of afford- able housing and do so in a preemptive manner that costs us less?”

This preemptive strategy has been adopted in response to other threats, as well. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., emerged as a national example of electrical resilience with its microgrid, an efficient on-campus power-generation and -delivery network that draws electricity from a gas-turbine generator and solar-panel field. When the New Jersey utility grid went down in the storm, police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency-services workers used Princeton University as a staging ground and charging station for phones and equipment. It also served as a haven for local residents whose homes lost power. Even absent a major storm, the system provides cost efficiency, reduced environmental impact and the opportunity to use renewable energy, making the initial investment a smart one.

ROOFING STANDARDS ADAPT TO MEET DEMANDS

Many of today’s sustainable roofing standards were developed in response to severe weather events. Wind-design standards across the U.S. were bolstered after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with minimum design wind speeds rising by 30-plus mph. Coastal jurisdictions, such as Miami-Dade County, went even further with the development of wind- borne debris standards and enhanced uplift design testing. Severe heat waves and brown-outs, such as the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, prompted that city to require cool roofs on the city’s buildings.

Hurricane Sandy fostered innovation by demonstrating that when buildings are isolated from the supply of fresh water and electricity, roofs could serve an important role in keeping building occupants safe and secure. Locating power and water sources on rooftops would have maintained emergency lighting and water supplies when storm surges threatened systems located in basement utility areas. Thermally efficient roofs could have helped keep buildings more habitable until heating and cooling plants were put back into service.

In response to these changes, there are many opportunities for industry growth and adaptation. Roof designs must continue to evolve to accommodate the increasing presence of solar panels, small wind turbines and electrical equipment moved from basements, in addition to increasing snow and water loads on top of buildings. Potential energy disruptions demand greater insulation and window performance to create a habitable interior environment in the critical early hours and days after a climate event. Roofing product manufacturers will work more closely with the contractor community to ensure that roofing installation practices maximize product performance and that products are tested appropriately for in-situ behavior.

AVERTING FUTURE DISASTERS THROUGH PROACTIVE DESIGN

Rather than trying to do the minimum possible to meet requirements, building practitioners are “thinking beyond the code” to design structures built not just to withstand but to thrive in extreme circumstances. The Tampa, Fla.-based Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has developed an enhanced set of engineering and building standards called FORTIFIED Home, which are designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to reduce damage from specific natural hazards. Research on roofing materials is ongoing to find systems rigorous enough to withstand hail, UV radiation, temperature fluctuations and wind uplift. New techniques to improve roof installation quality and performance will require more training for roofing contractors and more engagement by manufacturers on the installation of their products to optimize value.

Confronted with growing exposure to disruptive events, the building industry is working cooperatively to meet the challenge of designing solutions that provide superior performance in changing circumstances to reduce long-term costs and limit disruptions. Achieving such integration requires active collaboration among building team members to improve the design process and incorporate new materials and technologies, resulting in high-performing structures that are durable, cost- and resource-efficient, and resilient so when the next disruptive event hits, our buildings and occupants will be ready.