BY SCOTT DRURY, PE
If you read the title of this article and are hoping to learn some pathway to use obsolete codes and standards on your projects, then I have some bad news for you… that is not the intent of this article.
Whether you realize it or not, you may have issued engineering documents that did not comply with the effective codes, standards, ordinances, laws, and rules at the time of issuance.
As Professional Engineers, it is our primary responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. One of the simple ways to do this is to design using the codes, standards, ordinances, laws, and rules that are currently in effect and adopted by the permitting jurisdiction. These various regulations are specifically meant to establish minimum requirements to provide a reasonable level of safety, public health, and general welfare to the public, and they are typically updated on a regular basis to provide continual improvement as new products, methods, and technologies are introduced.
When prepared for inclusion with an application for a general building permit, the Documents shall meet all Engineer’s Responsibility Rules, set forth in Chapters 61G15-31, 61G15-32, 61G15-33, and 61G15-34, F.A.C., and be of sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature, and extent of the work proposed and show in detail that the proposed work will conform to all applicable standards, codes, laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations in effect at the time the Documents are sealed, signed, and dated, as determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
This requirement typically makes sense to everyone. However, one of the sub-paragraphs, 61G15-30.003(1)(b), F.A.C., lists this additional requirement:
If the Engineering Documents are intended to comply with requirements of any edition of federal, state, municipal, or county standards, codes, ordinances, laws, or rules, other than those currently in effect, the Engineering Documents must clearly state the edition and effective dates the Documents are intended to conform to.
So, now you may be wondering about using other effective permitting requirements for submitting your engineering designs. (For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the term “effective permitting requirements” to refer to “codes, standards, ordinances, laws, rules, and regulations.”) When does this apply, and why would I do this? Do I need to list all of the effective permitting requirements on my plans?
Let’s look at a few examples.
There are several projects that are divided into multiple phases or permitting packages due to schedule or funding source. For instance, a project on a tight schedule may issue an early site package to begin site work while the rest or the building is being designed.
In this type of a project, a permit is issued for the early site package, and often, this establishes the effective permitting requirements that will be used for the entire project. When the final building plans are issued, there may be new adopted versions of the effective permitting requirements, but the project is grandfathered into the older versions.
Let’s use specific dates in this example. The 7th Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) took effect after Dec. 31, 2020. The early site package was issued prior to this date and permitted under the 6th Edition of the FBC, but the final building plans were not submitted until Jan. 1, 2021. If the 6th Edition of the FBC is being applied to the building plans, then you would be required to list the effective permitting requirements on the plans, because these engineering documents are intended to comply with effective permitting requirements other than those currently in effect.
Trying to ‘Beat the Clock’
Many projects are issued for permitting in an effort to “beat the clock” before the new code editions take effect. There are no issues with this approach, unless you have to make changes to the plans after the new effective date.
Again, let’s use specific dates in this example. You issued the engineering documents for permitting on Dec. 31, 2020, in order to use the 6th Edition of the FBC and to establish those effective permitting requirements. Sometime after that date, you issued modifications to those plans to address permitting comments or to correct an error. At the time you issue (and seal/sign/date) the modified plans, new effective permitting requirements are in effect. If the plans do not list the previous versions (as when permitted), it would be assumed the documents comply with the current effective permitting requirements on the day the plans were issued, sealed, signed, and dated.
Some projects just linger on longer than expected, whether due to unforeseen conditions, added scope, schedule, budget, or many other types of issues. As you can expect, these projects could span the time frames of multiple editions of effective permitting requirements.
Just like in the examples mentioned above, the effective permitting requirements when the project was originally sealed, signed, and dated may be different as modifications are made. If the plans do not list the previous versions (as when permitted), it would be assumed the documents comply with the current effective permitting requirements on the day the plans were issued, sealed, signed, and dated.
So, what does this all mean? While the engineering rules in Chapter 61G15, F.A.C., do not always require you to list these effective permitting requirements on all engineering documents, there are several situations that require these to be listed. Some of these situations are not always in your control as the engineer of record. However, always listing these effective permitting requirements on your engineering documents can help with the following:
- The special cases listed above when engineering documents span multiple versions of effective codes is no longer a concern.
- It aids anyone working on the project in the future to know precisely what the effective permitting requirements were at the time of permitting.
Whether you choose to always list the effective permitting requirements or not, remember that Rule 61G15-30.003(1), F.A.C., requires that the engineering documents:
…shall be of sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature, and extent of the work proposed and show in detail that the proposed work will conform to all applicable standards, codes, laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations in effect at the time the Documents are sealed, signed, and dated, as determined by the AHJ.
Scott Drury, PE, joined H2Engineering in 2007, and became a principal owner in 2016. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn University in 2002. In addition to being a licensed Professional Engineer in both mechanical and fire protection engineering, Mr. Drury is also a commissioning authority, certified firestop inspector, and LEED accredited professional. He was appointed to the Florida Board of Professional Engineers in 2018, and is currently its vice chair.