Adjuster Education - Turtle Glass Building Codes and the Impact on Beachfront Property Owners and Carriers
As often happens in the adjusting business, you think you have seen or know most of the issues. But then a surprise comes along and you realize there is always something new in the business of property insurance adjusting. To put it another way, you don’t know what you don’t know. So here is what I didn’t know that I needed to know. This new revelation came this week when meeting with my client in his gulf front estate in Siesta Key, Florida.
In a meeting with the client, his structural engineer, the architect of record and the general contractor, the topic came up about what to do with the windows on this multimillion dollar home once the repairs were underway. Since the home was originally built in the early 1990’s, we were concerned about building department code issues related to the windows. The windows were in compliance with building code requirements at the time the certificate of occupancy was issued, but not now. Since installation, new building codes have been issued for windows primarily due to the wind peril, which now call for much stronger glass, framing, and attachments all of which in my mind is a good thing. Since the loss I am with dealing with is not a wind loss and is a partial loss to this home, these new regulations may still impact my client’s repair and the adjustment of his loss. There was no way he wanted to incur the cost to replace all windows and sliding doors in order to comply with the current building codes, not withstanding any insurance reimbursement he may be able to collect under his law and ordinance coverage.
So, as we all sat around the kitchen table going over this issue, one of the folks said maybe the insured could get a variance on upgrading the windows since the scope of this loss would call for only partial removal of some of the existing gulf front windows on the multiple levels of this large multi-level estate. We were all in agreement that the existing windows should be removed in the damaged areas, stored and then reinstalled once repairs were completed. Then the other shoe dropped when someone asked about “turtle glass.” As I sat there, my mind was racing trying to visualize some type of glass design or a new glazing product with the generic name of turtle glass. I felt stupid, but finally I had to speak up, so my question to the group was, what is turtle glass?
Well, it seems that many Florida coastal communities have adopted ordinances that require compliance with lighting issues so that sea turtle hatchlings are not misled by artificial lighting, which could affect their ability to navigate into the sea. You can read the specific Lighting Ordinance for Marine Turtle Protection rules here.
Ok, I get that lights on the beach at night are not good for just hatched sea turtles, but I was taken aback when my client’s professional told me that now glass, as in windows and sliding doors, has to have “a visible light transmittance of 45% or less in wave length associated with the visible spectrum, 400 to 700 nanometer.” WOW, who would have thought, but here is a link from the folks at PPG Glass titled “Glass Technical Document, TURTLE GLASS” that explains it all.
So there you have it, a huge law and ordinance requirement for condos, single family homes and all types of property with glass that fronts the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean provided the communities have adopted the ordinances as outlined by the Florida regulation. This of course assumes that the repairs or replacement required will trigger this law and ordinance requirement. And what community would not want to protect newly hatched sea turtles?
As it stands now, my client’s design professional will be talking with the building department officials to see what if anything can be done to comply with the turtle glass regulation or if they can get a variance. I can just image the looks and comments from the insurance carrier when the scope and cost of turtle glass becomes an issue in the settlement of a property loss.
Folks, this is a law and ordinance issue and without this coverage which is optional in many property forms and limited in others, there may very well be a big out-of-pocket expense to property owners who run afoul of the turtle glass regulations. Adjusters, beachfront property owners and their association boards need to be aware of this, since it could significantly impact the owners and insurers financially when the next big one comes along.
But then we all love those little turtles, right?