From ACEC Florida President Scott Martin, PE, LEED AP, DBIA
To the ACEC Florida Community,
Florida’s legislative session ended this month, which means it’s time to take a breath and reflect on the bills passed by the 2023 Florida House and Senate. There are several that are sure to impact each of our engineering practices.
SB 154 made some important revisions to the Condo Safety and Inspection Act that was championed by ACEC Florida and passed as Senate Bill 4-D in 2022. Among this year’s changes:
- It allows for milestone inspections by designated representatives of the Professional Engineer or Registered Architect in charge of the inspections, similar to Florida’s Threshold Inspection laws.
- For buildings within 3 miles of the coastline, it increases the age of buildings requiring their first inspection from 25 years to 30 years but gives local jurisdictions the authority to reduce that back down to 25 years based on local circumstances.
- Since a large number of condominiums will need to be inspected before the end of 2025 due to this new law, SB 154 provides some flexibility for owners to miss this deadline as long as they have entered into a contract with the engineer/architect that will conduct the inspections.
- It requires the Florida Building Commission to establish a building safety program to implement this law within the Florida Building Code – Existing Building by the end of 2024. This program must include inspection criteria, testing protocols, and standardized inspection and reporting forms.
- Finally, it corrects erroneous language from last year’s law and again allows structural integrity reserve studies, which determine how much money should be set aside for building maintenance and repairs, to be done by the reserve specialists that specialize in those types of assessments (not only an engineer or architect).
Staying in the building industry, SB 360 reduced the statute of limitations that building owners have to file a lawsuit based on a building’s design, planning, or construction from ten years after occupancy to seven.
There was a good deal of activity in the transportation sector this session. In addition to the $13.6 billion included in the state budget for the FDOT’s five-year work program, SB 2500 appropriated $4 billion for the Governor’s FDOT Moving Florida Forward program. HB 1305 included provisions related to highway construction financing and authorized the use of an automated license plate recognition system on the State Highway System. HB 425 contained requirements for roads to be compatible with autonomous vehicles and established the I-STREET Living Lab at the University of Florida.
Florida’s fertilizer industry was active in Tallahassee this year. HB 1191 requires the FDOT to study using phosphogypsum as aggregate material in roadway projects. Phosphogypsum is a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer that emits radon and contains several radioactive elements. An estimated 1 billion tons are stored in 24 stacks across Florida, with 30 million new tons created annually. Additionally, lawmakers added a late provision to the state budget that would ban local governments from imposing rainy-season restrictions on fertilizer use for the next year – a measure many local authorities use to reduce nutrient runoff in efforts to protect water quality in the face of red tide and blue-green algae outbreaks.
Before wrapping up, I need to call attention to one particular piece of legislation passed this session that undercuts the law governing the procurement of engineering services for public projects: a law that has served Florida well for the past 50 years. SB 7026, promoted by former State Senator and current State University Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, includes provisions that exempt Florida’s colleges and universities from complying with F.S. 287.055, also known as the Consultant’s Competitive Negotiation Act (CCNA). CCNA was enacted in 1973 and is based on the federal Brooks Act, which requires public entities to use qualification-based selection (QBS) rather than low-bids to procure professional design services, including engineering and architecture.
In the years since QBS was established at the federal level, in Florida, and in the 45 other states that have QBS laws, multiple studies have found that QBS results in lower overall construction costs, fewer project delays, increased benefits for small engineering and architectural firms, and advanced technical innovation through increased interactions with the project owner. For a building construction project, design fees typically comprise less than 8% of a project’s overall cost. The studies prove that any savings in design fees captured by selecting a low-bid design firm are more than offset by increases in construction challenges and other cost savings measures that a low-bid firm would be forced to take to deliver the project.
This exemption was first introduced in HB 1259 but was removed by the House Appropriations Committee in April. The language was added to SB 7026 only after it had moved through committees and when it was too late for any public comment or debate on the merits of low-bidding design services. This exemption may stay limited to universities moving forward, or it may open the door to further erosion of CCNA as the way Florida procures engineering services. Regardless, it sets Florida back at a time when innovation, capabilities, trust, and relationships should continue to be the gauge as our firms compete for design contracts, not simply who is the cheapest.
The battle for CCNA will continue, and the 2024 session is only months away.
Scott D. Martin, P.E., LEED AP, DBIA / Principal
Design-Build Market Leader
Walter P Moore
201 East Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 700
Tampa, Florida 33602-5823
813.275.8112 p / 727.642.6212 c
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.walterpmoore.com