Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law an omnibus education bill that, among other things, lets school districts in the Sunshine State modify construction requirements that often are tougher than the state's general building code. In particular, the modifications could include allowing the use of wood for interior non-load bearing walls.
Rep. Michael Bileca (pictured above), a Miami Republican who sponsored a bill with language that ultimately ended up in the omnibus legislation, said some of the state’s school construction rules are overly burdensome and should be revised in ways that still guarantee student safety but permit cost savings. He told Politico:
“You can make an argument — and I think a very strong argument — is this code needed anymore, with the building standards that we have? Do you need this extensive code in all schools? Building standards have gone up significantly. Do we really need schools built to this extent when they’re not all hurricane shelters?"
According to Politico Florida, the new law allows the use of “fire-rated wood stud walls in new construction or remodeling for interior non-load-bearing wall assemblies that will not be exposed to water or located in wet areas.”
American Wood Council (AWC) president and CEO Robert Glowinski applauded the new law but pushed for changes that would permit building entire schools out of wood. “There are many advantages of wood school construction besides the potential cost savings," he said. "Wood buildings can be designed and constructed to resist hurricane-level wind forces in accordance with the codes. ... AWC will continue our efforts to broaden the ultimate goal of this legislation – to make wood construction a statewide option for all public schools ..."