Volume 12, Issue 9 - November/December 2011

feature


Like-Minded Thinking Australia’s Fenestration Industry Gathered to
Discuss Impact Products, Trends and More
by Ellen Rogers

If Hurricane Andrew made South Florida and much of the Eastern seaboard realize the importance of safe and sound building components—including doors and windows—then perhaps Cyclone Yasi will have a similar effect in parts of Australia. The storm struck the Land Down Under earlier this year, leaving behind an estimated $3 billion in damages. Researchers at the Cyclone Testing Station and the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, James Cook University conducted a study that “reinforced the need to design the whole low rise building envelope, including cladding, doors, windows, roller doors, eaves lining and skylights to resist the expected ultimate limit states wind forces. It also highlighted the role of dominant openings in determining the internal pressures in buildings.”

Sound familiar?

Cyclones were a topic of discussion during Ausfenex 2011, which encompassed the annual meetings of the Australian Window Association and the Australian Glass and Glazing Association. The event took place September 21-23 in Queensland, Australia and brought more than 500 people together from both groups for a program that covered a range of topics.

Windows and Storms
Cam Leitch of the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University, led the discussion about windows and cyclones. Leitch stressed that for the windows it’s important to make sure that all components, connections, fasteners, etc. are designed and tested as a whole system.

“The windload action must be less than the actual capacity,” Leitch told his audience. “We can not control the windload action, but we can control the actual capacity by using the correct design parameters, etc.”

Speaking of external pressure, Leitch explained this is when the wind blows over the buildings.

“The house diverts the streamlines; the house forces a change to the wind-flow streamlines,” he said, but stressed that the big issue is internal pressure.

When Glass Breaks
“[When glass breaks], the internal pressure pressurizes the void space of the house,” Leitch said, noting that often when the door or window breaks, the pressurization is what pulls the roof off.

Likewise, wind-borne debris is also important. Leitch said new windload standards have increased wind speeds and researchers have found that debris can accelerate very quickly.

As a result of Cyclone Yasi, which Leitch called “a big fellow,” research and studies have shown the importance of window performance. Findings have shown a need for better door and window connections.

“Doors and windows are just critical for good performance of the building envelope,” said Leitch.

Julie Schimmelpenningh of Solutia has given numerous presentations around the globe on everything from glass and glazing trends, codes and standards, and laminated glass. Her stint Down Under was no exception as she spoke on “Glass and Windows – A World of Possibilities.”

She began with a bit of history. Looking back to castles, she pointed out there were no windows but “the key as houses evolved was that people wanted comfort,” she said, and explained that the more glass was used the more we learned. For example, she said we eventually found that putting glass on the south side of the building would allow the sun in and plants could be grown inside—in greenhouses.

She also talked about the importance of energy requirements.

“You have to look at energy considerations because codes are driving us that way to conserve as much as possible,” she said.

She also added that the trend toward increasingly larger buildings also means increasingly larger glass and windows.

“Everyone wants to be the biggest building in the world,” she said.

Glass Market Report
Just as the North American market has been impacted by increasing imports of Chinese glass, so, too, has Australia. And as the U.S. construction industry continues to struggle, the Australian market is doing so as well. Steve Choat of Viridian gave a report on the Australian glass market and noted that in the past two years the market has continued to see a gradual decline. He said in the last year there has been an 8-percent decline and the last quarter was particularly weak.

Of products driving the Australian glass market, Choat said windows represent about 69 percent of total glass requirements. Of the number, 54 percent is residential and non-residential is about 46 percent.

He said underlying demand for residential glass is quoted at 180,000 housing units and there’s a four-year average of 150,000 so there is a big backlog. Choat said confidence in the market is critical, as is the availability of financing.

Likewise, there are many opportunities with respect to energy efficiency.

“There are plenty of solutions, but we have to sell the benefits,” he said. “Sell more effectively … sell those high value products [so we] have a more flourishing industry.”

He added, “Yes it’s challenging ... but [there’s] underlying strength ... sell the benefits to consumers.”

And the same holds true in the United States: selling the benefits of windows could just help keep the industry moving forward, despite slow conditions.

Ellen Rogers is the assistant editor of DWM magazine


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