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Florida Water StarSM certification process

Certification process

A certified Florida Water Star home

These are the proud owners of a certified Florida Water StarSM home.

Achieving program certification requires the coordination of multiple stakeholders. This manual provides a detailed description of the structure of the Florida Water StarSM inspection and certification process, and the responsibilities of all stakeholders. The following table shows the roles of stakeholders.

Florida Water StarSM Stakeholder Roles and Responsible Entities

Stakeholder

Role

Entity

Agency

Florida Water StarSM program maintenance

St. Johns River Water
Management District

Administrator

Project application review, inspection, final certification decision

St. Johns River Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District, Florida Green Building Coalition

Applicant

Meets all applicable certification criteria

Builder, developer, homeowner

Certifier

Application documentation review, project inspection, verification of compliance with Florida Water StarSM criteria, and coordination with the administrator regarding final certification decision

Florida Water StarSM certifier

Accredited Professional

Design and installation of Florida Water StarSM landscape or irrigation system

Landscape or irrigation professional who has voluntarily attended training and passed an Accredited Professional Exam

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)

Interprets innovation points, variances, and criteria changes

Members chosen by agency

Stakeholder role summary

Applicants

Applicants are typically the builders, developers or homeowners seeking certification of their project(s). They are responsible for ensuring that their projects meet all relevant Florida Water StarSM criteria. The applicant must commit to program criteria through signature of the Applicant Participation Agreement with the administrator and must cooperate in the inspection process.

Certifiers

Certifiers must be Florida Water StarSM-certified, which requires the completion of mandatory training, an apprenticeship and a successful score on a comprehensive exam of the Florida Water StarSM program. The certifier’s primary responsibility is to verify that the project meets all relevant Florida Water StarSM criteria, through review of project documentation submitted by the applicant and an on-site inspection of the project. The certifier only submits projects that meet minimum criteria for certification.

Administrators

The administrators manage the Florida Water StarSM program within their respective jurisdictions, as depicted in the following map.

Administration map

The appropriate administrator reviews the details of the project to ensure applicable Florida Water StarSM criteria are met and, if so, issues final certification. The applicant is then mailed a letter of certification, program certificate and a plaque.

Agency

The agency, which is the St. Johns River Water Management District, owns all rights to the Florida Water StarSM program content. The St. Johns District is responsible for evaluating program effectiveness, modifying program content for improvement, and developing all training and technical materials.

Accredited Professionals

Accredited professionals (APs) are landscape or irrigation professionals who have chosen to attend training, take and pass an exam administered by the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association. APs are qualified to design or install a landscape or irrigation system for a Florida Water StarSM project. Although not required, working with an AP can increase an applicant’s ability to achieve certification.

Technical Advisory Committee

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is responsible for providing technical interpretation of criteria, innovation credits, variances, and other issues on a case-by-case basis, as necessary. The agency will initiate TAC review, as needed, and will use the TAC’s recommendations to make a final determination of course of action.

Three forms of certification

Florida Water StarSM certification can be achieved for any of three types of development/construction (see the following chart).

Types of Florida Water StarSM Certification

Certification

Description

Residential

  • Certification of new or existing residences in two tiers — Silver or Gold.
  • Criteria are met, and points are achieved for Gold certification.

Commercial/
Institutional

  • Certification of new or existing commercial facilities.
  • All requirements are prescriptive, and no points are involved.

Community

  • Certification of a planned community.
  • All residences are certified as Florida Water StarSM Residential.
  • All common areas must meet Commercial/Institutional requirements.

Certification can be sought for new and existing structures. (Note: Residential Florida Water StarSM certification also requires achieving minimum points for Gold, in addition to meeting the criteria.)

A separate document, the Technical Manual, provides clarification and direction on the Florida Water StarSM program criteria, including the intention and technical details for all program criteria.

 

Applicant responsibilities

Florida Water Star builder/applicant

A Florida Water StarSM builder displays a plaque awarded after this property received certification.

Role of applicant

The applicant is responsible for meeting the requirements of the applicable Florida Water StarSM certification. These requirements include the following:

  • Providing information and documentation necessary for verification of criteria for certification
  • Cooperation in the inspection process of structures submitted for certification
  • Commitment to the applicable program criteria by signing the Applicant Participation Agreement with the administrator
Submittals

For residential projects, the applicant must designate a Florida Water StarSM certifier for the project. This selection should occur as early as feasible in the landscape design process to help minimize problems during the certification. A list of active certifiers is available on this website. The following must be submitted to the certifier, who shall be responsible for their electronic submission to the program administrator, using e-Certification:

Code compliance

a. Applicant shall submit the final Certificate of Occupancy (CO) to confirm requirements and/or compliance with state, county and municipal codes prior to final inspection.

b. If there is prior verification that a requirement is not applicable in the local jurisdiction of the proposed structure, the certifier shall be permitted to waive that requirement.

c. It is acceptable for the certifier to waive the CO requirement if Florida Water StarSM certification is required prior to issuance of a CO. For instance, Toho Water Authority requires that the Florida Water StarSM certification be submitted prior to issuance of the final CO.

Plan review submissions

a. Applicant shall submit drawings to the certifier that include the irrigation and landscape details. Electronic documents are preferred.

b. Drawings shall be clearly readable and to scale. Drawings must include a date, legend, scale and direction marker.

Landscape submission shall include the following information:

  1. Scientific and common name of species
  2. Total plants for each species
  3. Square feet and type of turf grass
  4. Square feet of total landscaped area
  5. Square feet of each planting area/bed
  6. Narrative or graphic representation to describe the shade or sun and soil conditions of the site

Irrigation submission shall include the following information:

  1. Layout information
  2. a. Pipe location, type and size

    b. Sprinkler head location, including spacing to adjacent sprinkler heads and structures

    c. Location of soil moisture sensor probe, when applicable

    d. Location and area of irrigation zones

  3. Component information
  4. a. Sprinkler head type and application rate

    b. Microirrigation type and application rate

    c. Location of heads with check valves

    d. All relevant pressure regulation

    e. Water source

Schedule submission

A schedule of fixture and appliance specifications shall be submitted prior to inspection. The schedule should include fixture and appliance specifications, model numbers and relevant flow rates for all fixtures and appliances.

Criteria compliance

Residential compliance
To obtain Florida Water StarSM residential certification, the structure must contain sufficient, efficient features in each category so that the criteria are met and if Gold certification is sought, sufficient points are achieved in each category. Points for innovative water conservation and/or efficiency measures shall be awarded at the discretion of the agency and the TAC. The applicant shall provide the signed Landscape and Irrigation Affidavits.

Commercial/Institutional compliance
To obtain Florida Water StarSM Commercial/Institutional certification, the project must meet all requirements. All indoor fixtures and appliances must be water-efficient, as outlined in the Technical Manual, and outdoor water use must comply with certain design requirements and an annual irrigation water budget, using the water budget calculator.

Community compliance
To obtain Florida Water StarSM Community certification, all residences within the community must be certified as Florida Water StarSM Silver. In addition, any amenity buildings must be certified as Florida Water StarSM Commercial/Institutional and shared landscape areas must comply with the Florida Water StarSM Commercial/Institutional requirements.

Other requirements

All terms of the Applicant Participation Agreement must be met prior to issuance of a Florida Water StarSM certification. Submittals must be reviewed and approved by the certifier within 12 months of the initial submission. Any extension of this time must have written approval from the administrator.

The applicant is responsible for notifying the certifier that the project is ready for inspection. The applicant shall work to accommodate inspections in a timely manner.

If the inspection report identifies deficiencies, the applicant shall have 30 days to remedy deficiencies and request a reinspection. If additional time is needed, the applicant should submit a request to the certifier.

In the event requirements and standards are changed, as during the construction of a project, the applicant may elect to abide by either the requirements or standards in effect on the date the project was submitted to an administrator or by the standards in effect on the date of completion.

The applicant is responsible for any certification fee and for reimbursement of the certifier’s services.

Certification renewal

A certification is not valid in perpetuity. Rather, a project can be recertified if the initial certification was issued within two years and no significant changes have been made in any areas relevant to the initial certification. A project may only be recertified once. The following must be completed prior to the reissuing of the certification:

a. The owner shall contract with a certifier for a new inspection. The cost of the inspection is the sole responsibility of the owner.

b. Upon review of the inspection reports, the administrator will determine if the project complies with the original certification criteria and issue a recertification.

Certifier responsibilities

Role of the certifier
Florida Water Star certifier

A Florida Water StarSM certifier inspects an irrigation system.

The certifier’s primary responsibility is to verify that the project has met the applicable Florida Water StarSM criteria. The certifier reviews the applicant’s submission for compliance with the program, completes the inspection and provides a recommendation regarding certification to the administrator.

Certifier training, testing, apprenticeship and continuing education

Training — All individuals wishing to become certified must undergo an administrator-approved program training course. The course is coordinated and instructed by the St. Johns River Water Management District and usually lasts two days. A site visit to a Florida Water StarSM house is included. Individuals interested in becoming certifiers should have a baseline understanding of general building practices and specific knowledge in the areas of landscape and irrigation. Inspection experience is also helpful.

Testing — Testing typically occurs on the last day of training and the St. Johns District proctors the examination for certifiers. The test contains four sections: general, landscape, irrigation and indoor. Certifiers must obtain a minimum score of 80% on each section of the exam. If a certifier does not receive 80% in any section of the exam, they may retake that section no more than twice within three months of their program training. Certifiers passing the exam will become “apprentice” certifiers.

Apprenticeship — Each apprentice certifier will be required to demonstrate two successful inspections, as determined by the administrator. The apprenticeship period should be completed within one year of initial program training. Upon completion of the apprentice period, prospective certifiers must sign a Participation Agreement with the administrator prior to submitting any reports used in this certification program.

Continuing education — A minimum of six hours of administrator-approved continuing education must be completed annually.

Contracting with the applicant

A certifier is chosen by the applicant through a list of active certifiers on this website. The administrator is not involved in the assignment of a certifier to a project and does not participate in the financial relationship between the applicant and certifier. The certifier is responsible for ensuring the Participation Agreement is signed and submitted to the administrator for processing.

A certifier may not have any financial arrangement with the applicant other than that of certifier. A builder or subcontractor who is a certifier may not certify any project they have worked on.

Certification process
  1. The certifier consults with the applicant to explain the Florida Water StarSM program and certification criteria.
  2. The certifier is responsible for electronic submission of all certification documents, using e‑Certification, which is an online database created especially for Florida Water StarSM.
  3. Certifiers review project documents, including landscape and irrigation drawings, indoor schedule of appliances, and list of fixtures.
  4. During the inspection, the certifier verifies that the applicable certification criteria have been met (criteria and point items, where applicable). Verification of criteria and point items shall be documented and uploaded to e‑Certification. Where relevant, the certifier should provide detailed information in the comments section of e‑Certification to explain how points were achieved. For innovation points, variances or other determinations, the certifier must contact the administrator.
Review protocol

Landscape

a. Using the as-built drawing, the certifier verifies that the site meets certification criteria.

b. For residential certification, measurements shall include confirming the square footage of the landscaped area, turf grass area, planting areas/beds, tree shade area and preserved areas, if any.

c. It is recommended that certifiers use the waterwise plant database to confirm site appropriateness of landscape plants.

d. For Commercial/Institutional certification, the certifier must evaluate whether the landscape can survive with the irrigation water budget.

Irrigation

a. Using the as-built drawing, the certifier verifies that the irrigation system meets certification criteria.

b. Certifiers shall verify that all zones and equipment are operational in accordance with criteria.

c. Certifier shall confirm that the necessary documents are posted adjacent to the irrigation controller.

d. For Commercial/Institutional certification, the certifier must evaluate the accuracy of the irrigation water budget.

Indoor plumbing
Photo-documentation should be submitted, as deemed necessary, to prove indoor prerequisite compliance and point achievement.

Quality control audits
The administrator retains the right to conduct random quality control inspections of the projects.

Random sampling
For large developments, the certifier may apply to the administrator for permission to perform random residential inspections, rather than inspect every structure. The applicant’s drawings must demonstrate that all structures for certification are similar and compliance with Florida Water StarSM criteria can be achieved with random inspections. Typically, a random inspection schedule of one in five residences or structures will be recommended for developments.

Accredited Professional responsibilities

Role of the accredited professional
Professionals testing to become Florida Water Star accredited professionals.

Irrigation and landscape professionals undergo training and testing to become accredited professionals in the Florida Water StarSM program.

The accredited professional plays somewhat of a voluntary role in the program. It is not mandatory for the applicant to use an accredited professional. However, it is more likely that the project will be designed and installed to meet the program criteria if an accredited professional is used. To become an accredited professional, the landscape or irrigation professional must attend a training class and pass an exam in either landscape or irrigation, or both, if desired. See the accredited professionals list or Candidate Handbook for additional information.

If an accredited professional is hired for a Florida Water StarSM project, they should, if possible, be involved during the design phase. Frequent communication between the applicant, accredited professional and the certifier should prevent any problems during the inspection of the project. If separate landscape and irrigation professionals are hired, then both individuals should be part of the certification discussion to ensure success.

Submittals

The residential tier of Florida Water StarSM requires that an affidavit be signed by both the landscape and irrigation professional prior to certification. The affidavit must be given to the certifier prior to certification.

Administrator responsibilities

Role of the administrator
Florida Water Star administrator

Administrators approve and issue certification documents.

The administrator’s primary role is approval and issuance of certification within the applicable jurisdiction. Secondary responsibilities include the following:

  • Managing certifiers operating within their jurisdiction
  • Providing program-approved certifier training
  • Offering apprenticeship inspections
  • Reviewing apprenticeship reports
  • Approving new certifiers
  • Completing quality assurance inspections

The administrator has authority to issue Florida Water StarSM certification upon final review of each submission.

Currently, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Green Building Coalition are the only designated administrators of the program. The St. Johns River Water Management District administers the program within its legal jurisdiction.

In addition, the administrator may request changes to the criteria that address the needs of its region. Changes to the criteria must be submitted to the agency for approval prior to use.

Review process

Within 14 days of receipt of notification that the certifier has completed and submitted an inspection report of the project in e–Certification, the administrator shall issue a letter to the applicant regarding certification (approval or no approval). The 14-day period does not start until all documentation is complete in e‑Certification.

If there is proof that the residence is using significantly more water than an average residence in the utility service area, the administrator may deny certification until the high water use issue has been resolved.

Challenge procedure

Any person (the “challenger”) shall have the right to challenge the certification of a Florida Water StarSM designation (a “challenge”). A challenge may be brought with respect to the irrigation design and installation, landscape design and installation, and plumbing, e.g., products used and their installation. The challenger shall attempt to work with the certifier or the administrator to understand the designs and installations as well as the program requirements at the time certification was granted. It is recommended that the challenger attend a Florida Water StarSM training session. A challenge may not be brought with respect to any certification more than one year after certification and prior to sale of the home.

A challenge may be brought by delivering a Letter of Challenge to the program administrator. The Letter of Challenge shall be delivered by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by other method, that provides evidence of and a receipt for delivery. The Letter of Challenge shall contain a simple but complete statement of the challenger’s claim, with reasonable substantiation for the claim. The letter must be signed by the challenger. The administrator shall have the sole authority to accept or reject the Letter of Challenge. If the administrator rejects the Letter of Challenge, a full explanation of the rejection must be sent to the challenger. This notification shall include options available to the challenger.

If the Letter of Challenge is accepted, the administrator may request that the challenger sign an agreement agreeing to pay for the challenge if it is found to be without cause. The administrator shall convey a copy of the Letter of Challenge to the certifier responsible for the recommendation for Authorization of Certification. Within 30 days, the certifier shall review the Letter of Challenge and request any additional information needed to render a decision to the administrator as to the accuracy of the original Authorization of Certification. This information shall include, in cases of a challenge to the irrigation program, a review of all calculations. For landscaping, the certifier shall also review the original photographs and compare them to the present view. A visual walk-through must be conducted to verify that indoor criteria are met. The Challenge Recommendation shall be set forth in writing by the certifier and submitted to the administrator. The written recommendation shall indicate whether the certification is accurate and state, in detail, the basis for the decision.

The administrator shall review the Challenge Recommendation and may accept the recommendation as written or may request an independent review and/or reinspection. In this event, the administrator shall have sole authority to appoint an individual(s) or a firm(s) to review the Challenge Recommendation.

In the event the final Challenge Decision states that the Certification Authorization does not meet the criteria for certification, the administrator shall issue a written notice—a Notice of Suspension—to the builder/applicant suspending the home’s certification. If the Challenge Decision determines the responsible party or parties, the responsible party shall pay all expenses of the challenge related to conducting the challenge, including reasonable travel and reinspection costs. Failure to fulfill this responsibility may revoke the certifier’s and/or builder/applicant’s good standing within the program and the privileges therein. All rights of the builder/applicant to use the Florida Water StarSM name shall immediately cease with respect to the project.

Agency responsibilities

St. Johns River Water Management District is the Florida Water StarSM program agency and in this capacity owns all rights to the certification program and technical program documents of the Florida Water StarSM program. The agency has the sole authority to review and update program documents. The District will revise requirements and standards to maximize water use efficiency to the extent it may be technically and economically feasible to the current market.

Role of the agency

The agency provides the following:

  • Oversight for development of program criteria
  • Evaluation of program criteria and performance
  • Certifier training development
  • Maintenance of e-Certification
  • Maintenance of licensee agreements with all stakeholders

At its sole discretion, the agency may elect to sign a Participation Agreement with another water management district or a water utility. This agreement shall permit the licensee, known as the cooperative partner, to act as a certifying agent within a specific, designated geographic area. The cooperative partner shall have sole authority for issuing a grant of certification only with this specific geographic area and shall not be permitted to make any changes to either the technical program or certification program documents without specific authority by the agency.

The agency shall maintain a database, e-Certification, of all properties earning Florida Water StarSM certification. Certified projects records shall be maintained for five years. The agency is responsible for selecting TAC members and soliciting technical interpretations as required.

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) responsibilities

TAC Membership

Professional Expertise

Irrigation

Landscape

Plumbing

Green building

Relevant agencies

Utility representative

Florida Water StarSM staff

Florida Water StarSM certifier

Other administrators

TAC will provide advice to the St. Johns River Water Management District for the criteria interpretation and innovation evaluation of the Florida Water StarSM program. Members will review and comment on innovation or variance requests. This will not be a voting committee, and there will be no reimbursement for membership. Membership will be composed of both public and private entities. The table at right contains the TAC membership composition.

Term of service

Service on the committee will be for two consecutive years, with an option to serve an additional term. Certifiers will serve single-year terms.

Qualification for membership

Individuals seeking to serve on this committee must demonstrate a certain level of expertise in their field as well as knowledge of general water conservation practices and be willing to travel to meetings at least twice per year. TAC meetings will be held at either the St. Johns District’s Palatka Headquarters or Maitland Service Center.

Members of the TAC are listed here.

St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
800-725-5922