At the request of the Florida State Legislature, the Florida Building Commission has asked Applied Research Associates Inc., Albuquerque, N.M., and the University of Florida, Gainesville, to study and model wind pressure in the Panhandle using information from recent storms. Legislation exempts the Panhandle from the rest of coastal Florida�s stronger wind impact codes, except within one mile from the coast.

The Florida Insurance Council and the Institute for Business and Home Safety support strengthening the code application in the Panhandle so it conforms to statewide standards.

Others, including the Florida Home Builders Association, are not convinced of the need. Doug Buck, governmental affairs director, says the association supports the study, but expects results will show that the Panhandle does not need to upgrade its code standards, which would raise construction costs.

During a meeting with building officials representing affected counties, Rick Dixon, executive director of the Florida Building Commission, reports eight of the nine officials said they do not think it is necessary to change the code.

Steven C. Bassett, a member of the Florida Building Commission and the National Society of Professional Engineers, says early findings suggest the need for more study, with one of the questions requiring further investigation being whether a forested environment mitigates wind effects. The Panhandle has more tree cover than Miami, for instance, although building is taking place at a rapid pace in some locales.

Dixon expects to have preliminary study results in February, in time for the commission to make recommendations to the Legislature. The complete report is expected later in 2006.