WHAT IS YOUR ENGINEER NOT TELLING YOU?
Product evaluations (sometimes called “product approvals”, “ICC reports”, NOA’s or similar) for building components are the general rule in the International Building Code. Building officials, architects, insurance companies, third party reviewers, even homeowners ask for them all the time, frequently refusing permits, insurance discounts, and product installations. So what is the legal ruling on when and if product approvals are required for a particular product?
Myth #1: “You need to have a Florida Product Approval” (Florida Statewide Evaluation):
In Florida, the building code requires only certain products be tested and evaluated by an engineer, architect or approved test agency. Many states outside Florida accept Florida Approvals but typically require codes changed and proper state certification, turning Florida Approvals into general engineer evaluation reports. The Florida evaluations or certified test documents can either be registered with the state of Florida through their statewide product approval system website or by use of a ‘Local Product Approval‘. There are only a few product types that require a state or local approval per the Florida statutes, and only for products protecting a habitable structure (click here for more):
|> Panel Walls||> Windows|
|> Exterior Doors||> Shutters|
|> Roofing Products||> Structural components|
Engineers can evaluate a product in Florida without a state certification if the local approval method is followed. It’s just easier to have an FL number, not mandatory. Texas TDI has a similar voluntary product evaluation system as well.
Myth #2: “You need to have an NOA for your product or system”:
Miami Dade NOA’s (meaning Notices of Acceptance), contrary to popular understanding, are in themselves NOT approved as a statewide product approval. NOA’s permit applications for more evaluation categories than Florida’s system, but still don’t encompass every product type. NOA’s are adopted either by registering them with the state system (if they are applicable to the above product types) or by the Local Product Approval process (see FS 553.8425). Other evaluations (such as engineer Technical Evaluation Reports or TER’s) are permitted by code (see FBC 1604.4) through the authority provided to a registered professional engineer or architect by a ‘rational analysis’ or through the local approval process. Learn more by clicking here.
…IT’S JUST BEEN A LONGSTANDING MYTH THAT AN “NOA” IS REQUIRED FOR ALL PRODUCTS…
Myth #3: “You need an ICC report” (ICC-ES International Code Council Evaluation Reports):
From the ICC website, an ICC-ES report is a document that presents findings, conclusions, and recommendations from a particular evaluation. ICC tests and certifies
|> Fasteners||> Door/Windows||> Wall Systems|
|> Concrete Anchors||> Cladding||> Flooring/Deck Systems|
|> Manufactured Wood||> Wall Covering||> Metals & Masonry|
|> Plastic Lumber||> Roof Materials||> Other Similar Components|
Having an product ICC evaluated is great thing to have, it’s just not required and not available to all product types. We wish we could have all products ICC evaluated. There are also other approved evaluation entities that perform a similar type of evaluation, UL, IAPMO, Intertek, among others. The main difference between an ICC report and a code-compliant engineering evaluation other than the trust in peer-review is ICC and similar reports come from accredited bodies (such as ANSI) and do not have to be signed and sealed. Engineer evaluations meet many of the same code requirements but must be individually and originally signed and certified by the design professional. We’re big fans of ICC evaluations, they just don’t fit for every product, budget, or timeline. Engineering Express offers an alternative solution while still assisting with ICC-ES, Miami Dade, Florida, and Texas TDI submissions of products when applicable.
So, is a product approval required for a general building product?
A general building product that is not intended to protect habitable spaces or the building envelope from flying debris, cyclical loads, or storms in any way does not require a product approval in Florida. They are structural components to a decorative/accessory use building. Once limiting conditions are evaluated by an engineer, general building products need only comply with requirements that the load upon the component is not exceeded when used upon a particular structure, and that the components do not become ‘flying debris’ or cause potential injury during a storm.
Therefore, a product approval is not required in Florida when a building product in a non-habitable application is installed. Since it is an engineer’s obligation to ensure products exposed to high wind or lateral forces do not become unsafe structures or contribute to wind borne debris, the evaluation report combined with an engineer’s evaluation of the structure where the component is used serves as a safe rating of the product installed to the rated threshold to meet this obligation.
Why Engineering Express uses Technical Evaluation Reports (TERs):
Along with testing (and sometimes even without), an engineering ‘rational analysis’ can be performed on any product not required to meet the requirements for protection of the building envelope to demonstrate compliance. When testing is part of the evaluation, the evaluation must consider multiple specimens, structural limitations of use, the method of testing, and quality control. When testing is not required, that evaluation must consider all failure modes and their respective required factors of safety when determining a rated safe load limit. The rating on any Engineering Express Technical Evaluation Report provided by this office is the safe load limit the component can withstand during a design event. Click here to see our list of publicly available TER’s (all requiring an original signature and seal to be valid per code).
How are these TER documents approvable?
From the International/Florida Building Code 2012/2015/2018/FL2017 Section 104.11 Alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment: The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that any such alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, not less than the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety. Where the alternative material, design or method of construction is not approved, the building official shall respond in writing, stating the reasons why the alternative was not approved.
104.11.1 Research reports. Supporting data, where necessary to assist in the approval of materials or assemblies not specifically provided for in this code, shall consist of valid research reports from approved sources.
These building codes define APPROVED SOURCE (Section 202) as: “An independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses.” Engineering Express® professionals meet the competency requirements as defined in the code and can seal their work. Engineering Express® is regularly engaged in conducting and providing engineering evaluations of single-element and full-scale building systems.
If in doubt, contact Engineering Express for a no-cost consultation and review of your intended product submission.