This week’s decision by the Florida Building Commission to leave Northwest Florida building codes alone is receiving both praise and criticism, depending on who you talk to.
The governor and the insurance industry both urged the commission to remove the exemption this area has enjoyed the last eight years. But that exemption could come at a high price.
Hurricanes Dennis, Ivan, and several smaller storms did more than $18 billion of damage to Northwest Florida in 2004 and 2005.
Local insurance agent Trey Hutt says insurance companies report much of it was preventable. "We have really good data to say tougher building codes really reduced damage."
Since 1998, most new homes in Florida have been required to withstand 120 mile an hour winds and withstand wind-blown debris. But this area was exempted from those standards. The Florida Building Commission was under pressure to close that loophole this week, but refused.
This pleased local builders, like Rick Koehnemann, who say we don't need tougher building codes. "There was a study done at the University of Florida that says that the wind is diminished because of all the trees here. They found it really wasn't necessary, so why spend the money?"
Though they are not right on the water and don't have to have impact glass windows, one family made the investment anyway. It cost them an extra $20,000. But it could save them a lot of money on home owner’s insurance.