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Opinion
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 1 year ago

Letter to the Editor: Maitland City Council is right to demand durable building code requirements

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The Maitland City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission should be applauded for their desire to protect their community.
by: Robert Garbini

Earlier this year, the Maitland City Council began lobbying to gain support across the state for changes to Florida’s building code, allowing cities to set their own requirements for more durable construction materials like concrete and steel rebar in all new construction, aside from detached, single-family homes. These efforts, if enacted, would create a more resilient Florida, and would benefit Floridians for generations to come.

Yet, in an argument advocating for wood-framed construction made on these pages, American Wood Council President Robert Glowinski misses the mark and fails to account for Florida’s unique history, geography and challenges.

Following the devastation of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, which was the most expensive natural disaster in history at the time, Florida adopted stronger building codes, including efforts to minimize wind and water damage from storms. Because wood is prone to molding and warping when subjected to flood waters, the changes largely resulted in the elimination of wood-frame houses in south Florida.

According to a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Concrete Sustainability Hub that looks at the expected weather hazard costs of a building over its lifecycle dependent on location, a $10 million non-engineered wood building could be expected to face more than half a million dollars in hazard related damage over 50 years, while a $10 million engineered concrete building is expected to face only $165,000 over the same period. If you factor in the energy-efficiency qualities of concrete as a building material, the total lifecycle costs end up being even lower. The MIT study confirms the importance of using resilient construction materials in regions prone to extreme weather events, particularly Florida.

To ensure that all of Florida, not just coastal communities, is constructed with durability and resiliency in mind, cities like Maitland should be allowed to prohibit vulnerable building materials and methods from new construction projects. Many Americans throughout the southeast United States are still dealing with mold and air quality issues stemming from the flooding caused by last October’s Hurricane Matthew.

The Maitland City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission should be applauded for their desire to protect their community, and we hope the entire state heeds their call.

— Robert Garbini, president of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association

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