The AAF as we know it today was started in Pinellas County. The Association was formed out of necessity after the St. Petersburg and Pinellas County Building Departments decided to stop issuing building permits. That action stopped the industry cold.
Ten men representing their respective companies met in May 1974 and decided to contribute $50 each towards hiring Edward O’Dell to do the necessary aluminum engineering. After it was complete and the men were back in business, they decided to form the AAF with Gerald Rehm as their first President.
Those ten men were:
- Jim Allen, Busch Mastercraft
- Jim “Whitney” Carson, C&B Awning
- John Coleman, West Coast Awning Company
- Ben Dowell, Dowell’s Aluminum, Inc.
- Dennis Henegar, Douglas Manufacturing
- Gerald Rehm, Screens Unlimited
- Grady Robinson, Jr., Crown Awning and Screening
- John Scherff, Suncraft Products
- Sid Silverstein, Gulf Aluminum Products, Inc.
- Paul Vevier, Seminole Awning & Screening, Inc.
Almost 40 years after the humble beginnings of the Aluminum Association of Florida, technical information supporting the patio contracting business remains the mainstay of participation in the AAF. Over the years, since 1974, from this small beginning the AAF grew and developed into the industry’s single most influential body. Technical data and construction specifications remain the most compelling issue driving the organization.
Until the late 80’s, there was no specific statewide license category associated with the patio industry and the AAF made a commitment and developed a program to create a new state certified license category which would become known as the Specialty Structure Contractor. After months of meetings between committee of AAF contractors and the Construction Industry Licensing Board, the Specialty Structure Contractor became a reality. Aluminum patio contractors can now obtain one license which will allow them to work across the state and to do work not only on residential projects but commercial projects as well.
In 1998, when the AAF learned that a new state “unified” building code was being developed and would be implemented, the AAF chose to get directly involved and implemented a code development program of its own. The AAF commissioned wind tunnel research on screen structures and presented the fruits of this research to the Florida Building Commission in the form of specific code provisions to govern the design of screen structures. These code provisions were implemented with the first version of the Florida Building Code in 2002.
From the beginnings in the 70’s and through the turn of the century, an important technical custom emerged known as “master file engineering”. Not codified under Florida law nor mentioned in the building code, it became a de facto standard methodology of presenting design information to building departments across the state for 3 decades.
In 2001, a building official met with Florida Board of Professional Engineers and inquired about the practice of “master file engineering”. The board took this issue under advisement and hired a consultant to explore the issue. The consultant, Joe Berryman, P.E. reported to the full Florida Board of Professional Engineers board December 2003 and took the position that the rules currently in force for the practice of engineering were sufficient and that no further action by the board was recommended. The board took Mr. Berryman’s advice.
In April of 2005, 2 building officials asked for time at an FBPE board meeting and presented a slide show of aluminum projects destroyed by the storms of 2004. It should be noted that many of the structures presented were neither permitted nor inspected. Without any additional research the FBPE voted immediately to declare an end to “master file engineering” and advertised this development on their website in May. While the FBPE has no jurisdiction over building officials, it was using its prestige and power to herd building officials to their way of thinking.
Perceiving this as a threat to and a major crisis in the sustenance of the industry, the AAF took unprecedented immediate and direct action. It hired an ex-senator and well-known attorney/lobbyist in Tallahassee, Fred Dudley, Esq. Fred formulated a strategy which ultimately proved to be effective.
A telephone conference was organized with the FBPE and resulted in a postponement of the previously set deadline until the July FBPE meeting. At the July FBPE meeting, Fred orchestrated the involvement of representatives from the office of the Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, who brought a letter from the Secretary explaining to the FBPE that they had exceeded their authority and should reconsider their action. This meeting was well-attended by contractors and many spoke, but the die had been cast by the communication from the Secretary of the DBPR. The FBPE relented and rescinded its decree of April. They also, however, set a schedule and appointed a special committee to further explore this issue. It was clear to all concerned that the FBPE intended to eliminate “master file” permitting in favor of “signed and sealed” site specific engineering. Their only impediment was due process and time.
Over the fall of 2005 and into early spring committee meetings were held and an “engineering responsibility rule” was fashioned and presented. This rule, following a proper course of due process, did not mention “master file” at all, its context and nature, however, would make its use impossible if implemented. This story would not be complete without the mention of a small company which was planning an industry coup. They did not orchestrate the initial “master file” ban, but planned to make the most of it by promoting the language of the responsibility rule to their own financial benefit by wording the rule in such a way that it would have required virtually every pool enclosure design to be done by their company and also purchase products from which they would receive a royalty.
Fred was meanwhile very busy working to retard the rule making process by presenting challenges, while simultaneously fashioning a new Florida Law that would render the rule, whether or not actually implemented, inconsequential. Senate Bill 404 was created and lobbied through the appropriate legislative channels and subsequently passed into law, now known as Chapter 2007-227, which changes Chapter 489 F.S. and prevents building departments in Florida from requiring site specific signed and sealed engineering and also codifies “master file engineering” and prescribes certain requirements for its use and publication.