Two common means of product evaluations in Florida are Florida Statewide Approvals (FSA’s) and Miami-Dade Notices of Acceptance (NOA’s). To help determine whether these evaluations would be right for you, we’ve compiled a list of pros & cons for each type of evaluation.
(opinions as interpreted by this firm)
Pros for a Florida Statewide Approval (FSA)
- No Per-Sealed Copy Fees: Beyond the up-front costs of applying and obtaining approval for the FSA, you can download certifications for free right from the State of Florida Product Approval website. Download as many certifications as-needed for free (good for high-volume products such as mechanical equipment). Since Statewide approvals are optional, an alternative is to have individual plans sealed on a per job basis (also known as a Local Product Approval for products ‘inside the rule’ and commonly known as Technical Evaluation Reports for products outside the rule. Click here for more information).
- Convenient: Once the FSA is approved, certifications may be easily accessed and downloaded from the Florida Approval website. Certifications may not even be required to provide to a permit official – by providing the FSA approval number, the official may view and obtain the sealed product evaluation report independently via the Florida website: https://floridabuilding.org/pr/pr_default.aspx
- Marketing: Some manufacturers/distributors may prefer to have an FSA for marketing purposes. You can say you have a “Florida state-wide approval” which is certified and registered with the State of Florida.
- Easier Acceptance: A building department cannot deny signed and sealed code-compliant Technical Evaluation Reports (TER’s) outright if the site-specific installation is within bounds of the signed TER and outside the rule of requiring a FSA. That being said, an FSA tends to meet less resistance, in that they are considered peer-reviewed to some extent.FSA’s are reviewed by the Florida Product Approval commission and have additional requirements, such as Quality Assurance requirements and a third-party validator reviewing the FSA application. These aspects, combined with the approval residing with the State of Florida, lends an FSA additional credibility.
TER’s may be questioned for further documentation, calculations, or clarifications by a building department official, which can slow down the permit process (again, this is a rare occurrence, as TER’s from Engineering Express have an excellent track record of acceptance). On rare occasions, building department officials deny TERs due to misconceptions of what they are or what is required. In these cases, Engineering Express works with the reviewer to address the official’s concerns.
Cons for an FSA
- Higher up-front costs: There is a $500+ fee to apply for an approval with the State of Florida, per approval. Engineering Express also charges fees to prepare and submit each FSA submittal package. Lastly, there are fees external from Engineering Express for meeting certain prerequisites of an FSA, such as establishing a QA contract and hiring a validator.
- Greater regulation: FSA’s require a yearly-renewed Quality Assurance contract, (see sample QA requirements at this link): https://www.engineeringexpress.com/wiki/florida-statewide-approvals-fsa-quality-assurance-and-validator-requirements/
- Time-consuming: The FSA submittal process is more time-consuming for achieving certification. Once the submittal package is prepared and submitted, there is a 2-3 month waiting period for the State of Florida to review the application and formally decide whether the submittal package is approved or rejected with comments.
- Harder to update: Updating an existing approval is also a more-involved process. Updating an approval requires a revision application to the State of Florida. If model numbers are being added to a mechanical equipment FSA for example, that requires a complete re-submission and approval, time-consuming and costly.
- The State of Florida charges a $500+ fee per revision application.
- Engineers charge fees for performing the updates/revisions and completing the revision application.
- You would need to hire a validator to validate the application, who charges their own fees separately.
- The revision application takes about 2-3 months to become fully approved and processed on the Florida website. (The updates will be visible on the website once the application is submitted, but the approval status will read “Applied For” or “Pending” until the status reads “Approved”.)
- FSA’s need to be updated each code change cycle, redoing this entire process and charging fees again (every 3+- years).
- Florida-Only Certification: An FSA will bear the certifying engineer’s Florida seal. As such, the certification is formally valid for use only in Florida. For out-of-state applications, the other state may request the engineering document have a certifying engineer’s seal from their particular state. With TER’s, Engineering Express can review codes per state and certify the report for use in over 40 states to which we are licensed and operate in.
Pros for a Miami Dade Notice of Acceptance (NOA)
The pros of an NOA are similar to the pros of an FSA:
- No Per-Copy Fees: Beyond the up-front costs of applying and obtaining approval for the NOA, you can download certifications for free right from Miami-Dade Product Control website. Download as many certifications as-needed for free (good for high-volume products).
- Convenient: Once the NOA is approved, certifications may be easily accessed and downloaded from the Miami-Dade Product Control website. Certifications may not even be required to provide to a permit official – by providing the NOA number, the official may view and obtain the sealed product evaluation document independently via the Miami-Dade Product Control website: http://www.miamidade.gov/building/pc-search_app.asp
- Marketing: Some manufacturers/distributors may prefer to have an NOA for marketing purposes. A common slogan seen in product advertising in South Florida is “Miami-Dade County Approved”. In addition, one of the requirements of an NOA is: “Each unit shall bear a permanent label with the manufacturer’s name or logo, city, state, model/series, and following statement: “Miami-Dade County Product Control Approved”, unless otherwise noted”. This may be seen as a desirable accolade, in comparison to competitors’ products.
- Easier Acceptance: A product with an NOA tends to meet less resistance as it has been reviewed and approved by the Miami-Dade County Product Control Department.
NOA’s are reviewed by the Miami-Dade County Product Control Department and have additional requirements, including:
- Product labeling (as described above)
- Substantiating calculations or physical testing to qualify unit performance
- Peer review by a Miami-Dade Product Control Professional Engineer (P.E.)
- Annual quality assurance audits, performed by and at the discretion of Miami-Dade Product Control.
- Code change renewal fees for submission (Plus engineer fees to revise) every 3+- years.
- Quality Assurance Expiration and renewal fees, which differ from the code change date.
These aspects, combined with the approval residing with Miami-Dade County, lend an NOA additional credibility.
TER’s created by Engineering Express for products ‘outside the rule’ may be questioned for further documentation, calculations, or clarifications by a building department official, which can slow down the permit process (again, this is a rare occurrence, as our TER’s have an excellent track record of acceptance). On rare occasions, building department officials deny TERs due to misconceptions of what they are or what is required. In these cases, Engineering Express works with the reviewer to address the official’s concerns.
Cons for an NOA
- Higher up-front costs: There is a $4,300+ fee from Miami-Dade to apply for a new NOA, per NOA (as of 8/2022). the certifying engineering firm also charges fees to prepare and submit each NOA submittal package.
- Greater regulation: All NOA’s are required to meet the product labeling specifications and have a quality assurance program established with Miami-Dade Product Control. NOA’s also have additional requirements depending on the product / application. For example, products classified as “Rooftop Mechanical Equipment (Exhaust Fans & Ventilators)” are required to have a combination of calculations and physical testing in order to obtain an NOA approval. See list of requirements by product here: http://www.miamidade.gov/building/control-forms.asp#7
- Time-consuming: The NOA submittal process is more time-consuming for achieving certification. Once the submittal package is prepared and submitted, there may be up to a 3-6 month period for Miami-Dade Product Control to review the application and formally grant approval for the NOA. In our experience, it is not uncommon for Miami-Dade to issue comments that need to be addressed prior to approval, which can lead to a longer timeframe within the aforementioned 3-6 month estimate. We suggest preparing for an 8-12 month time from start to finish.
- Harder to update: Updating an existing NOA is also a more-involved process. Updating an NOA requires a revision application to Miami-Dade:
- Miami-Dade charges a $1,612.50 fee per revision application (as of 8/2022).
- The certifying engineer charges fees for performing the revisions to the engineering document and submitting the application to Miami-Dade.
Engineering Express’s fee may vary based on the amount of supporting calculations/documentation required, whether product requires re-testing, etc.
- The revision application may take 1-3+ months to become fully approved and processed on the Miami-Dade website and additional concerns may be brought up at the time of review to comply with the latest standards of care.
- Faster Expiration of NOA: An NOA effectively has two expiration dates, each with its own schedule of fees to renew:
- The expiration of the NOA approval itself as determined by Miami-Dade (5 years from the date of Miami-Dade’s approval). This differs from the code cycle expiration date.
- The expiration date of the Florida Building Code (FBC) being referenced. A new edition of the FBC takes effect about every 3 years, and building department officials will not accept an approval referencing an obsolete edition of the FBC once the new FBC takes effect.
- Additional Fees: There may be additional fees that are not reflected in the above-mentioned services. For example, it is often recommend to file an application with Miami-Dade Product Control to review any test protocols to ensure Miami-Dade agrees with and approves of the proposed physical testing. Preparing said application would be covered in our NOA submittal fees, but Miami-Dade would charge an hourly rate to review and issue a verdict on said application.
- Florida-Only Certification: An NOA will bear the certifying engineer’s Florida seal. As such, the certification is formally only valid for use in Florida. For out-of-state applications, the other state may request the engineering document have a certifying engineer’s seal from their particular state. With TER’s, Engineering Express can accommodate certifying these in over 40 states in the US.
Takeaways: Our Suggestions on How to Best Utilize FSA’s, NOA’s & TER’s
As a starting point, a Technical Evaluation Report (TER) provided by Engineering Express will meet your certification needs for most mechanical equipment products and other products ‘outside the rule‘. However, for reasons covered in the “Pros” sections above, some of the benefits provided by an FSA or NOA may make these types of product evaluations an appealing option.
If an FSA or NOA is desired, an FSA is the more common election made by product manufacturers in our experience. This is because an FSA can offer much of the same benefits as an NOA, but at a lower cost. As such, we will first examine FSA’s.
Our suggestion on how to best utilize an FSA, to maximize its benefits and compensate for its drawbacks, is to utilize both the TER from Engineering Express and the FSA through the State of Florida.
In preparing an FSA, a TER from Engineering Express is prepared first as the base product evaluation document. Finished TER’s are valid for use immediately and may be used to file for building permits while the FSA is processing. Once the FSA becomes formally approved, the FSA can take over for providing certification in Florida.
An NOA is a more rigorous and involved method of product evaluation relative to an FSA.
The most common reason for obtaining an NOA is that an NOA is required for your product in order to sell/install your product in Miami-Dade County. This is the case for many building products, such as a window, door, or hurricane shutter. However, an NOA is not required for most mechanical equipment. Some building officials may ask if you have an NOA number for your product, but for most mechanical equipment installations, it is not a requirement to have an NOA. Our Technical Evaluation Report will suffice in most instances.
Besides this reason, an NOA also has its own merits (see related “Pros of an NOA” section herein). Should you elect to proceed with obtaining an NOA, we also suggest utilizing a TER from Engineering Express in tandem with the NOA.
For both FSA’s and NOA’s, the engineering seal will be for Florida only. For out-of-state applications, a TER can extend the certification coverage where the other product evaluation types fall short. With TER’s, they can be ordered in signed in over 40 states to which we are licensed. TER’s are available to order through our online Plan Store with the appropriate state’s engineering seal.
For updates and revisions, a TER can be updated quickly and economically for immediate use. The updates may also be propagated to the FSA or NOA, where the TER can serve as a short-term solution while the revision application is processing.
This approach utilizes the nimbleness and versatility of the TER to cover for the more time-consuming and rigid aspects of the FSA or NOA. For more information on TER’s, FSA’s, and NOA’s, please visit our Knowledge Base: https://www.engineeringexpress.com/wiki-tags/mechanical/
All information provided/attached herein is for informational purposes only. This firm will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays, losses, injuries, or damages arising from any information provided herein. No information in this page is to be construed as formal, official, or binding without a certified design and approval by a licensed Professional Engineer of the firm and represents opinions only subject to the reader’s independent verification.
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Article written by staff employee Eric Reit, EI and edited by Frank Bennardo, PE August, 2022
Last Update: August 10, 2022