The recent National Association of Home Builders annual convention in Orlando exposed a very interesting issue with most of the window, exterior door, roofing, garage doors and solar companies. Every time I inquired if their products had Dade County product approval I always got this smirk from the sales representative. We at Schachne Architects & Builders attend numerous trade shows to keep up with the latest products that we can recommend to our clients. There are constant upgrades and changes in doors, windows and other construction products that we have to educate ourselves about. There was one recurring theme though that consistently caught us by surprise. Whenever we inquired about the product approval question, the response was usually, “we don’t want to waste the money, time or man power testing our products when we can sell the to the remaining 99% of the country”. It seems that product manufacturers are in their words, being ripped off for the high fees they have to pay to have Dade County engineers review their products test performance and be subjected to turnstile fees only to have to resubmit their engineering over and over for minor inconsistencies. Sales representatives consistently emphasized that they felt like they were being strong armed into paying extensive fees, waiting long periods of time for responses for their submittals and being felt like they were part of a shake down.
There are an abundance of high quality products that we as architects and builders would like to incorporate into our designs. Many suppliers had some very interesting, unique and beautiful products available for our use. Unfortunately, we would not be able to use them because they don’t have Dade County product approval. The results of Hurricane Andrew changed many facets of the building trade here in south Florida. The interesting fact that always caught our attention was it wasn’t the doors and windows that failed, it was the way they were or weren’t installed correctly. Do you think the asphalt shingles that dot thousands of roofs today would stay in tack if an equivalent storm passed through south Florida today? Its a shame that the design community is limited to the products that are available to us because some engineer has the ability to say yes or no to a worthy product, especially when the design criteria meets the standards. Many of the national manufacturer’s we visited with laughed at the process and rolled their eyes when questioned about the approval process. Perhaps its time to re-evaluate who is playing God over the product approval process. It is the laughing stock of the south Florida market.