Volume 36, Issue 4, April 2001
Winds of Change
Knowing What Hurricane Protection Is and Is Not
by Dave Olmstead
Hurricane protection has become a booming industry in Florida, a trend that is expected to expand to most coastal areas of the United States. The massive destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, totaling more than $30 billion in damages, including the destruction of 125,000 homes and the loss of more than 60 lives, forced the construction industry to take a second look at how building materials hold up under extreme conditions.
May 2000 saw the signing of legislation in Florida ordering a new building code, The Uniform Statewide Building Code requiring builders in most coastal Florida counties to strengthen houses so they withstand winds of 110 to 160 miles per hour, depending on location (see related article page 59). This new code will require every exterior opening of a new home or business to be protected against flying debris from hurricane winds by installing either impact-resistant products or shutters.
Large- and Small-Missile Resistant
There are two types of impact- resistant products: large-missile resistant and small-missile resistant. Large-missile resistant products have been exposed to various impacts with a piece of lumber weighing approximately 9 pounds, measuring 2- by 4- inches by 6-feet in size and traveling at a speed of 50 feet per second (34 mph). The product must pass positive and negative wind loads ranging from 1,342 to 9,000 cycles, with no missile penetration and no opening larger than 1/16- inches wide by 5-inches long in the interlayer of the glass. Large-missile resistant products must be installed in windows or doors located no more than 30-feet from ground level.
Effective June 2000, small-missile resistant products have been exposed to various impacts with 5/16- inch diameter steel balls weighing no more than 2 grams and traveling at a speed of 80 feet per second (50 mph). The product is then subjected to hurricane loading ranging from 1,342 to 9,000 wind cycles. Like large-missile resistant products, small-missile resistant products must also be installed when windows or doors are located 30-feet above ground level.
Impact-resistant windows and doors combine heavy-duty aluminum frames with laminated glass. Although the glass may break on impact, the laminated glass, which is secured by a special silicone glazing that locks glass to the heavy-duty aluminum frame, remains intact, keeping destructive winds out of the home.
Gauging Industry Awareness
In an effort to gain knowledge of how builders and architects view various hurricane protection methods, our company commissioned an independent survey of Florida builders and architects to measure their awareness of impact-resistant products. In that survey, almost 60 percent of the respondents said they would recommend their clients use impact-resistant windows, compared to the 28 percent who recommended panel shutters and 12 percent endorsing roll-down shutters. Of the 3,000 polled, 94.7 percent of the respondents associated hurricane protection as the most important attribute of impact-resistant windows, followed by other characteristics such as meeting code requirements and home security.
Know the Codes
The bottom line for ensuring hurricane resistance and safety calls for builders and architects, is to be aware of code requirements for hurricane-protection products. They also need to urge consumers to request documentation that shows the products they are purchasing have not only been legitimately tested, but also what those tests mean and that the products are impact-resistant certified.
The South Florida Building Code (SFBC), Southern Building Code Congress International and American Society for Testing and Materials have all developed product testing standards, and the testing protocol of the SFBC is the most stringent in the nation. Rest assured, if a supplier states that his/her products meets SFBC standards, then the supplier should be able to provide an NOA from the Miami-Dade Product Control, increasing the odds of these windows withstanding the next hurricane season.
Dave Olmstead is a product specialist with PGT Industries of Venice, Fla.