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March - April 2003

AMAA ANALYSIS
DEAN

Florida Code Approvals
AAMA-Certifying Window Manufacturers on the Fast Track 
Dean Lewis

The state of Florida historically has been as challenging a market for manufacturers of window and door products as it has been a lucrative one. The wide variety of climatic conditions and potential wind loads alone make product approval in the more than 400 local code jurisdictions a complicated code enforcement issue.

New Florida Building Code System
The new Florida building code system, officially launched March 1, 2002, has established a more uniform standard than the previous state minimum building codes. This new Florida Building Code (FBC) also establishes an innovative product approval system that becomes fully effective October 1, 2003. The new state product approval rules institute uniform criteria for manufacturers of windows, doors, skylights and certain other building components. These parties have the option of seeking product approval from individual local jurisdictions (as was always necessary in the past) or applying to the Florida Building Commission for statewide product approval. The application process is enhanced and expedited by an option to submit applications and pay applicable fees online via a special website. In addition, a database will be made available to search a list of products approved for statewide use. 

The new code also requires windows and glass doors to be installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. It is the commission’s opinion that, if the manufacturer’s installation specifications differ from those tested with the window, they must be signed and sealed by a Florida-registered engineer or architect.

As with traditional current code enforcement practices, the new product approval rules recognize several different methods of demonstrating that a product complies with the standards referenced by the code. These include the submission of a test report from an approved testing laboratory, an evaluation report from an approved evaluation entity or an evaluation report from a Florida-registered engineer or architect. However, the express path to approval lies in listing or labeling of the product by an approved certification agency.

Approved Certification Agencies
It is here that the Florida program further innovates by encouraging the participation of established public and private organizations that may apply for state approval to test, validate and/or certify products as qualified for statewide or local approval and to act as quality-assurance monitors. While local building officials have always accepted testing reports, evaluation reports and listing and labeling from such entities, after October 1, 2003, these entities must be state-approved or licensed.

In particular, approved certification agencies may test products, evaluate products based on test results and/or rational analysis, conduct quality assurance monitoring of product production, certify compliance with applicable standards and list and label compliant products. 

Validation entities verify compliance with standards by validating test reports and confirming that product approval applications are correct.

All windows and glass doors must be tested by an approved, independent testing laboratory or certification agency and labeled to identify the approved product evaluation or validation entity, the product manufacturer and the load-performance characteristics of the product. Such labels will be accepted as proof of compliance with the FBC. 

AAMA Certification Program
Manufacturers who certify their products under the AAMA certification program will particularly benefit from the new Florida program because, last summer, AAMA became the first organization to be granted final approval by the Florida Building Commission as both a certification agency and a product validation entity under the new system.

Approval of AAMA as a certification agency means that, at no additional cost to AAMA licensees, all of their products listed in the AAMA certified products directory that meet the requirements of the FBC will have automatic local approval throughout the state of Florida.

Furthermore, the concurrent approval as a “product validation entity” means that AAMA-certifying manufacturers can also make application through AAMA for Florida statewide approval of their products. Approved products would be issued individual Florida product approval numbers and appear in the Florida product approval system database. This searchable system will be accessible to design professionals, building officials, contractors and the general public. 

Currently, AAMA is finalizing technical details by which its certified products database will be coupled with the Florida-approved products database for quick reference in identifying qualified products. At least this will save a great deal of time and effort for AAMA-certifying manufacturers to obtain either local or statewide approvals and will likely provide a significant marketing advantage.
For more information about the Florida product approval system, visit www.floridabuilding.org and click on the “Florida Building Commission,” go to “publications and presentations” and look for the brochure and PowerPoint presentation on product approval. 

Procedures to apply for Florida statewide product approval are also available on the AAMA website (www.aamanet.org). 


Dean Lewis is the assistant technical director and manager, product certification, at the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, which is based in Schaumburg, Ill.


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