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Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

Background: I am a one man engineer in Florida providing structural designs, primarily for custom residential, new construction and renovation. Current market is little to no new construction and more "get it done cheap" renovation projects.

Issue regarding the Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume): If you follow the letter of the code, most "insignificant" remodels that architects/designers bring me require that much of the entire structure be brought up to code. ie  if a member's stress increases > 5% it must meet the current codes. Added wind area or reconfiguration of lateral load distribution usually increases diaphragm and shearwall stresses more than 5%. This is a major issue as we design for 140 mph exposure C winds regularly, which pre 2002 era houses were not designed for. When I tell them the scope I propose to address, remedies they may have to make, and my fees, it scares most clients away to the "other engineer" who doesn't make things so complicated for them. Exacerbating the problem is that the permitting review personnel do not appear to enforce the Existing Building code at all for residential projects.

My question is: Do any other engineers have experience applying the FBC Existing Building volume to residential? Am I on the wrong path with my "strict" interpretation? I would love to hear any comments, advice, or experience in dealing with this as I need the work and income.

RE: Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

flgulfcoasteng....We have run into the same problems. I believe the strict interpretation is correct, but have seen many engineers acquiesce to architects and owners.  That isn't right and unfortunately, the architect and the owner just want the signature and seal for insurance, not competence.

It baffles me why some of our colleagues continue to denigrate our profession by such actions, but complain when someone cuts even lower on them, doing the same thing.

Keep with the strict interpretation.  It isn't worth compromising your professional integrity or your professional liability coverage.  Complain to your local building department that the plans examiners are not requiring code-mandated analysis and compliance.  It won't always help, but you'll feel better!

(First Coast area)

RE: Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

It is good to hear that I am not alone in dealing with this.

Our local plans examiners do not require documentation of analysis or calculations, which makes me wonder if it would help if they did. I have heard that Miami-Dade does require calculations and they have fairly good code compliance. Of course the problem would then be how to raise our fees to cover assembling a presentable set of calculations, but I would welcome task. (I would be embarassed to show my "chicken scratch" calcs and un-formatted spreadsheets).

I hope your doing well in North Florida and thanks for the response.

RE: Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

fgce...Thanks.  Things are going OK up here...housing market is same as everwhere...dead.  Commercial is slow, but still going.  Our business is holding up fairly well, since we are somewhat specialized.

I also would welcome more requirement for submittals.  Unfortunately, that requires that the building departments hire someone who could actually review and comment on them.  

Most of our work is failure investigation/existing building evaluations in support of other construction failures (roofing/waterproofing effects on structure)/delegated analysis for shop drawings.

For our delegated analysis work, we submit a calculation package (believe me...I can relate to the scratching and back of napkin calcs!!).  Sometimes the package gets reviewed by the structural engineer of record, sometimes not.  If it's positive feedback that we get, that's great. If it's negative feedback, then it either becomes a learning experience for us or for them...one of us has to be right!

Good luck in South Florida.  We have a small project down there next week, looking at a construction issue with glass.

RE: Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential

You might want to "teach" your local agency about the requirements - or if you are truly nuts - report them to the state.

I have heard that in parts of my state - you can submit a set of plans w/o a seal for an extra $25 or $50.  Go figure.

RE: Florida Existing Building Code (orange volume) for Residential


Yhanks for this insight.  Now I know when I quoted a price of $500 retainer plus $!00/hr plus expenses the client laughed.

I invite comments from licensed engineers aboard.



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