Volume 6 Issue 8 September 2005
Passing the Test
The Newest Building codes Scored an A+
During Last Year's Hurricane Season
by Sarah Batcheler
Last year proved to be a year of elevated hurricane activity. The country’s coastline has already experienced heightened activity this year with Hurricane Dennis making a destructive landfall at such an early stage this hurricane season. The door and window industry was affected dramatically by hurricanes in 2004, and was able to test out the validity of the latest building codes enforced in the south Florida region. These codes require higher design pressure (DP) ratings for windows, such as the Miami-Dade County codes.
Last season’s destructive storms, including hurricanes Jeanne, Ivan, Frances and Charley, were the first real field test for these new code-complying products.
“With every hurricane we learn something. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 blew out an estimated 1.5 million windows because there were problems with the anchorage. The 2001 building codes fixed that. Now we see that windows stayed in openings, but water invasion became a problem from improper installation,” says Dave Olmstead, public affairs and code compliance specialist for PGT Industries of Venice, Fla.
“All across Florida, homes brought up to the standards of the new building code or built to those standards initially have performed as required during our storms of the past year, while homes that did not meet code were generally the ones to suffer the most damage,” says Greg Bevan in a company release. Bevan is the trade sales manager for Pella Windows, who is based in Orlando, Fla.
Vinu Abraham, managing partner at Hurricane Test Laboratory in Riviera Beach, Fla., an independent lab that performs the full scale testing of building components, says if you looked at two homes, one built in 1995 and one built in 2003, the newer one probably sustained 95 percent less damage.
It is a consensus among window manufacturers that awareness of the importance of impact-resistant products continues to grow. Protective coverings over windows or the use of impact-resistant glazing on materials in windows reduce the likelihood of having serious damage to a home, says Abraham.
Hurricane codes will probably follow the same learning curve as that followed by engineers in the development of ASCE 7—the national design standard for windloads, says Abraham. As more is learned about hurricanes, codes will be tweaked to account for our increased understanding, says Abraham.
Builders, homeowners and architects are fairly well-informed about hurricane-resistant windows in places like Florida, but as you move up the East Coast, these audiences are less educated, says Joe Patrick, product manager of VELUX of Greenwood, S.C.
“As codes spread, knowledge and awareness spreads, he says.
People are taking more precautions to protect their homes this season. Home and business owners are more aware of devastation Mother Nature can bring on buildings which are not designed properly, constructed, prepared and maintained for withstanding the elements, according to Kathy Krafka Harkema, corporate public relations for Pella.
“Fewer people are going to ride out the storm. They are also taking necessary precautions when replacing their old stuff with new products,” says Patrick.
There is a huge turnaround in the way people think about the storms, adds Olmstead, and they are protecting themselves in many different ways.
Homeowners typically choose one of three options for protection against hurricanes. They either board the windows as the storm approaches, temporarily cover the window with shutters, or install impact-resistant windows for year-round security against the elements.
Chris Monroe, vice president of marketing for Simonton Windows of Parkersburg, W.V., says the company has seen a huge increase in purchases of its impact-resistant products. “Homeowners have replaced their windows and doors that do not meet the impact codes to get ready for this year,” he says.
The hurricane season of 2004 proved that the codes were effective in keeping the homes intact, but some homeowners experienced significant water infiltration into their residences. Wind-driven rain that is associated with hurricanes is like a water-jet pushing water through the cracks in the windows and doors in homes, as was explained by Abraham. However, there is no standardized test for wind-driven rain and no current code requirement that windows be designed against the effects of wind-driven rain.
“When a window is sold, it has a water performance rating on it that deals with water leakage with everyday usage like a rainstorm. The window company isn’t responsible for damage because of this wind-driven rain because there is no code requirement requiring windows be designed for this condition,” says Abraham.
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) Southeast Region formed a task force last fall to investigate the problem of water damage in hurricane conditions.
“Everybody believes that hurricane zones require higher water, structural and impact resistant glazing elements,” said Sigi Valentin, AAMA Southeast region director.
Although the task force has not revealed a written concept, it conducted several months of testing utilizing cyclic, dynamic and wind tunnel type of water penetration testing, according to Valentin.
The task group was expected to submit a draft for review by the whole AAMA membership by the end of August. It won’t be the development of a specific hurricane code, but the current I-Codes and door and window standards that will include increased optional water and structural requirements for designated high wind zones, says Valentin.
“All door and window manufactures are able to design and manufacture high-performance products. However, not for a price of $99,” he says.
Affecting the Industry
One of the big problems the industry faces involves the supply of laminated glass. Right now, demand is exceeding availability, says Olmstead. This is why some companies are building their own laminating facilities. Others are negotiating deals with offshore suppliers. Other companies that already have laminating facilities are supplementing their supply with outside purchases, says Olmstead. He adds that companies relying solely on outside suppliers seem to be suffering the most.
“Lead times have increased somewhat but industry is catching up with the demand and should be nearly back to normal by early 4th quarter,” he says.
Changing Their Ways
Some window manufacturers have had to change the way they operate to develop these glass products for the coastal regions. Such development is costly and time consuming for the window manufacturer.
“We have put a focus on developing skylights for areas with hurricane codes. It requires investment and stronger materials. It generally takes a significant amount of time and money to go through the process of development and testing for high velocity code approved products,” says Patrick.
Where is the impact-resistant product headed? It is fair to say that education plays a part in the future for impact-resistant products.
Olmstead has noticed the newest additions to the impact-resistant products. He says the newer windows will be thermally-improved and energy-efficient.
What will future codes address? Homeowners are expecting more out of their products and want to feel secure in their homes.
“There has been a great deal of discussion in Florida and within AAMA about increasing the water infiltration numbers. In addition, there has been some concern about moving the wind speed maps further inland in Florida due to the damage from last year’s hurricanes,” says Monroe.
For some states, the adoption and enforcement of these codes have a great impact on the industry, he adds.
“There are areas where the codes have been adopted but they are not being aggressively enforced. In Florida they will shut down your job site if you do not have the right products that meet code. In other areas the enforcement may not be as tight,” he says.
Sarah Batcheler is an assistant editor for DWM magazine.
First-Time Product: A Cellular PVC Window for Hurricane-Prone Areas
Milwaukee, Wis.-based Gossen Corp. has launched a new cellular PVC window product certified by Architectural Testing Inc. to ANSI/AAMA/NWDA101/1.S.2-97 for use in hurricane-prone areas. The No Draft Window has achieved a Certified Unit Design Pressure rating of DP 50.
The rating means that the window system was able to resist wind penetrations at pressures of 75 pounds per square foot and resist 8 inches of water per hour under rigorous laboratory conditions. This is the equivalent of hurricane conditions-including winds in excess of 170 mph, according to a company press release.
This rating is achieved without the use of a steel bar to reinforce the structure, a method commonly used by rigid vinyl window manufacturers. The DP rating could be increased further with the addition of steel reinforcement in an existing channel, according to the company.
The product is manufactured of cellular PVC, which means it can be sawed and painted like wood but offers superior insulation values. The solid material also can be milled easily as the vinyl is solid, in contrast to other PVC window systems, which are filled with reground PVC.
“This product is appropriate not only for hurricane-prone regions, but is a good choice anytime a contractor wants a window with a superior Energy Star® rating,” says Bob Simon, vice president of marketing. “Even our lower-end window achieves DP ratings higher than those of our competition, and we are proud to occupy this premium position in the market. As we continue to grow our network of fabricators, our fabricator partners are discovering the benefits of selling a product that not only drives more revenue but results in happier customers and no call-backs.”
EYE-WATCH is Opening Eyes in Delaware
BFRich Co. Inc. of Newark, Del., has launched the EYE-WATCH window system, which has engineered stainless steel hardware and additional reinforcement into the frame.
The hurricane-rated window consists of insulating glass with one lite of double-strength annealed glass to the exterior frame and one lite of AFG’s laminated glass to the interior. The laminated glass consists of two lites of double-strength annealed glass and one .090-inch Solutia interlayer, separated by TruSeal’s DuraSeal™ aluminum butyl warm-edge composite spacer system.
“Builders in states with coastal areas, such as Delaware, are happy to see an impact product like EYE-WATCH. It will allow them to meet the stringent new impact window codes,” said Darryl Huber, architectural and commercial projects manager. “In addition to impact resistance and safety, the laminated glass also provides additional security, superior sound and solar control and ultraviolet screening as compared to standard insulating glass.”
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