30 Year Recertification
40 Year Recertification Modifications
Buildings in Miami-Dade County are now required to go through a 30 Year Recertification. The collapse of the Champlain South Tower has brought renewed attention. This attention is regarding building safety and procedures around the recertification and unsafe structures process. Through the provisions of Chapter 8 of the Code, the County is the jurisdictional entity for the local administration of the Building Code and sets the standard countywide for procedures around the recertification process. It also provides procedures for the handling of unsafe structures.
The Champlain tragedy highlighted that a key impediment towards timely action on recertification of buildings is the lack of preparation on the part of property owners. The impact of years of deferred maintenance catches property owners by surprise as assessments from recertification reports highlight building deficiencies. These deficiencies often prevent timely recertification, particularly when they require unanticipated financial investments. Properties under the condominium form of ownership of real property pursuant to Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes may find themselves needing even more time to adopt special assessments on unit owners. To also, raise the funds necessary to implement needed improvements.
Since the collapse, much work has been done by many public and private professional organizations. In search of positive actions that will help ensure that a disaster such as the one we witnessed at Surfside is never repeated.
While we await the findings of the continuing National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation. This County has gathered important information and discussed areas in need of reform through many forums over the last several months.
Many citizens and experts contacted the County in the aftermath of Surfside to offer their thoughts and suggestions for changes. We have conferenced with the Building Officials and staff from several cities. Including Coral Gables, Doral, Miami, Miami Beach and Surfside. Our county staff has made presentations and offered testimony to groups. Such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Florida County and City Managers Association, and the Florida Engineering Society. The recent Florida Discussion Panel was moderated by the International Code Council, and the Hurricane Research Advisory Committee to the Florida Building Commission.
The Board of County Commissioners subcommittee has also heard important testimony from experts, professional groups and stakeholders over the last several months. The Champlain disaster also prompted a flurry of audits and inspections by building jurisdictions. Along with calls from concerned citizens seeking assurance that their structures were safe. Building jurisdictions observed deteriorated conditions on properties not yet due for recertification due to lack of maintenance. These observations, along with the ample public testimony from many public and private professional organizations in search of positive actions towards building safety. This has led to the series of code changes presented herein as summarized below.
-An early notification mandate will be codified so that all jurisdictions advise property owners one and two years prior to their recertification anniversary of the need to submit the report. Early notice is anticipated to help property owners prepare financially. To allow them to do any necessary building repairs and allow for a more timely completion of the recertification process.
-The recertification mandate is shortened to 30 years. Commencement of the process at year 30 is warranted based on the observations of deterioration of structures by building jurisdictions countywide. Which begin to show signs well before year 40 that could lead to unsafe conditions when buildings lack proper maintenance.
-As steel reinforcements rust, this internal corrosion manifests itself on concrete as cracking and spalling. Commencement of recertification at year 30 will aid in preventing or halting the advancement of corrosion.
-Mandate the use of structural engineers for the structural component of threshold buildings. Mandating the exclusive use of structural engineers for the structural component on threshold buildings is also recommended. A “threshold building” is a building greater than three stories or 50 feet in height. Or which has an assembly occupancy classification as defined in the Florida Building Code which exceeds 5,000 square feet in area and an occupant content of greater than 500 persons. Requiring structural engineers to certify the structural inspection of threshold buildings is expected to bring an added measure of safety to the recertification assessment.
-Mandate the use of electrical engineers for the electrical component of recertification. The electrical component of recertification reports for threshold buildings will similarly require that electrical engineers be used in assessing threshold buildings given the life-safety threat posed by having electrical systems in disrepair.
-Procedures for handling requests for extensions. When requests for extensions of time to submit reports are made by property owners, these should be limited to 60 days. As well as, an engineer’s letter certifying that the buildings may be safely kept in their legal occupancy while reports are being completed will be required.
-Procedures for handling extended repair timeframes. When repair work requires extended time frames, continued statements for safe occupancy should be required in at least 6-month increments.
-Legislate an affirmative “duty to report.” The attached ordinance includes an affirmative “duty to report” findings on structures. Which prevents their safe occupancy by licensed professionals engaging in building assessments to the building official of the jurisdiction. This ordinance also provides penalties for the failure to abide by this mandate. In the amount of $1000.00 and requires reporting of the violation to the appropriate board or licensing agency.
-Provides for potential action on utility disconnect by the building official. When failure to submit a recertification report causes uncertainty as to the safety of the continued occupancy of a building. The attached ordinance provides that the building official may order electrical utilities to be disconnected. This provision may be employed only after appropriate notice to property owners. Who have become delinquent on recertification and have not provided a safe occupancy statement from a qualified professional.
-The code currently allows building officials to order utility disconnects in cases of building emergencies. It also requires that structures be vacated due to the failure to recertify. Adding a provision for utility disconnect in cases where properties fail to recertify. It is intended as a more practicable alternative to the present mandate to vacate buildings. This provision does not authorize electrical utility disconnect if the building official has been advised of a potential health. Or a medical issue that could be impacted by the disconnect and has not yet taken reasonable efforts to address such issue.
-Revocation of recertification. The attached ordinance adds a provision to affirm that issued recertifications may be revoked due to any misrepresentation of the actual conditions of the building.
Section 8-5 presently outlines procedures for Unsafe Structures. As you are aware, the failure of a building to recertify causes the structure to be moved into unsafe enforcement procedures. This ordinance adds the provision that in buildings or structures where there are multiple unit owners or tenants. But the responsibility to correct deficiencies associated with an unsafe posting is carried by an association, management company, landlord, or another responsible party. The responsible party shall, within 24 hours of the posting, notify all building-unit owners and tenants of the unsafe declaration in writing.
The unsafe notice must also be posted in a conspicuous location. Furthermore, the responsible party shall, within three business days. Provide the Building Official with proof that the notice was timely disseminated to all unit owners and tenants on a form acceptable to the Building Official. This ordinance also provides penalties for the failure of a responsible party to abide by this mandate in the amount of $200.00 per unit.
Actions to Adopt Staff Recommended Revisions by the Board of Rules and Appeals
The General Considerations & Guidelines are the basic instructions and procedural outline for performing a building recertification inspection. Now expanded into more detail concerning the various building components covered by the recertification inspection. These revised minimum guidelines include new provisions. Like inspections of facades and structural glazing, specific questions pertaining to a building’s foundation system, and specific structural condition questions pertaining to threshold buildings (buildings taller than 3 stories). Examples of the strengthening found in the guidelines include:
-Expansion joints exposed to the weather must now be examined for deterioration. Water infiltration through faulty expansion joints is one of the major causes of concrete spalling and weakening of slabs.
-Exterior doors are now required to be inspected. Much like windows, doors must be kept weathertight to keep water from filtering into the structure. Regular maintenance is necessary for exterior doors.
-Those threshold buildings containing structural glazing, exterior glass that is adhered to a frame. These must be linked with the requirements for regular inspections as mandated in Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances and Florida Building Code. The structural glue used to keep glass panels in place must be checked regularly to make sure there is no deterioration.
-A new category for building façade has been added. This category is intended to capture the entire exterior façade of a building. To make sure that various components of the building that are adhered to or mechanically attached don’t come loose and fall. This new category considers many miscellaneous building components that once were not considered in recertification.
-Infrared thermography inspection is now required on electrical systems operating at 400 amperes or greater. This is an inspection performed using an instrument operated by a certified technician. Which identifies thermal anomalies throughout the electrical system. Thus, potentially discovering issues in the electrical system over what the normal eye could detect.
The guidelines now have a section on historical documents and permitting. An attempt must now be made to research any plans for a building. So that the design professional can understand how the building may react to certain distress. Violations issued by the building official must be investigated to learn how the existing building has been affected. Specific guidance on discovering unpermitted work, performing repairs, and completing the reports are now newly explained in the guidelines. The inspection templates developed to report on structural and electrical components of the building have also been expanded to cover additional components:
-Foundation is a new category added to the structural report. Investigating excessive settlement or ground subsidence must now be considered.
-Indicating signs of overloading within the various load carrying building components must now be investigated and reported on.
-Top of building conditions such as parapet walls and hanging mansards must be closely looked at for signs of deterioration.
-Special or unusual features of a building such as membrane structures, chimneys, retaining walls and seawalls are now part of those components that need to be inspected.
-Photo documentation is now part of the reporting the design professional must submit together with their written reports.
BORA also considered a number of the recommended revisions to Chapter 8 being presented through this ordinance. Although the attached code changes were largely endorsed, BORA departed from the County recommendation regarding the use of electrical engineers. Exclusively for the electrical reports (BORA endorsed allowing engineers in Florida licensed under other disciplines to perform electrical recertification inspections; i.e. mechanical engineers). BORA also endorsed allowing special inspectors who are licensed engineers (rather than exclusively structural engineers) to conduct structural inspections on threshold buildings. The specific scope of their considerations on Chapter 8 is attached.
Additional County Action
The County has also created the online 40-year portal. Adding transparency for the public to the information about the status of a building’s recertification for structures in the unincorporated area. Staff is working with municipal jurisdictions to implement the Board’s directive. That all recertification data, regardless of building jurisdiction, be made available online. We also voluntarily commenced this fall with the mail out of courtesy advanced early notification letters. For structures that will become due in 2022. Early noticing as contemplated by this ordinance 1 and 2 years in advance is also underway. UMSA structures will become due for recertification in 2023 and 2024.
As you are aware many jurisdictions, including Miami-Dade, launched proactive reviews of aging structures in the wake of Surfside. Jurisdictions were also flooded with calls from concerned residents about the condition of buildings. These activities in some cases led to building jurisdictions acting to vacate structures that posed an imminent danger. While these measures were intended to safeguard the welfare of our citizens.
They also have led in some cases to prolonged displacements. That has required the coordination of public safety and social services. To that end, my administration has proposed an ordinance. Which requires building officials to notify the County’s Office of Emergency Management. Ordered evacuations to ensure that these services continue to be coordinated into the future.
The Board is also considering legislation. Requiring building owners to pay relocation costs for displaced residents. In structures that have failed to be properly maintained by their owners.
Eight positions were also added to RER’s budget. To enhance the County’s ability to support the recertification process and its associated activities. These positions include licensed electrical and structural professionals and building staff.
While much has been accomplished since the Champlain tragedy, County actions will not end with this ordinance. RER staff will continue to monitor the activities of professional organizations. As well as, the State Legislature and Building Commission, and the NIST investigation. Our review of procedures and best practices to enhance building safety will continue. Any further recommendations to safeguard the public will be brought promptly before this Board for action.
At their September 23rd, 2021 meeting, the Board of Rules and Appeals ratified the following recommendations for modifications to Miami Dade County Code Chapter 8-11(f) Recertification of Buildings and Components:
1. Require all jurisdictions to send advanced notices on building recertification. Two years, one year and 90 days prior to their official due date. (Subsequent initial recertification notices for the following 10-year increments would also follow the same notification schedule.)
2. Mandate the exclusive use of Florida licensed professional engineers. That are also Florida licensed special inspectors for issuing the structural reports of threshold buildings as defined in the FBC. (THRESHOLD BUILDING. In accordance with Florida Statute, any building which is greater than 3 stories or 50 feet in height. Or which has an assembly occupancy classification that exceeds 5,000 square feet in area. And an occupant content of greater than 500 persons.)
3. Include code mandated stricter criteria for applicants requesting extensions to the report filing deadline. A Building Official can consider extensions of not more than 60 days for just cause, and the request must contain a signed and sealed ‘safe to occupy’ statement from the engineer or architect commissioned for this service.
4. Legislate a professional’s affirmative “duty to report” to the Building Official any adverse findings on a building whether within or outside of a 40-year evaluation no later than 10 days after informing the owner or if there is imminent danger reporting must be done within 24 hours.
5. In condominiums with multiple unit ownership scenarios where recertification requirements fall to an association, require that unsafe notices be posted in a conspicuous location and require that associations notify all building unit owners and residents of the declaration.
6. Require the first recertification of buildings and components to occur, instead of at the 40-year age, at the 30-year age of the building as recorded by the County’s Property Appraiser.
7. When submitting reports early, modify section 8-11(f)(ii)(3) to require the recertification shall not be required for a minimum of 10 years from that time, or age thirty (30), whichever is the shorter period of time.
The Board of Rules and Appeals, therefore, recommends to the Board of County Commissioners that the above procedural improvements be amended into Miami Dade County Code, Chapter 8-11(f) Recertification of Buildings and Components. The proposed modifications are being presented in a continued effort by BORA to ensure that local building code regulations provide for the necessary safety and protection of all the residents of Miami-Dade County.
For all your 30 Year Recertification needs contact Eastern Engineering Group.
This information was strictly quoted from the Memorandum by Miami-Dade County dated February 11, 2022.
To see the full Ordinance relating to existing buildings and unsafe structures download the pdf below.
©️ 2023 Eastern Engineering Group wrote and published this article. All rights reserved.
Armando Longueira, P.E.November 6, 2022 5:05 am