Hurricane season is about to peak. Though the season officially started in June, nearly 85% of hurricane formation occurs during August, September and October. Fueled by record-high ocean temperatures, the strength of hurricanes is expected to increase this year, claim meteorologists at Colorado State University.

The meteorologists forecast 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes. The team recently increased its forecast to an “above normal” hurricane season in the Atlantic due to the “extreme anomalous warmth” of sea surface temperatures.

The enhanced 2023 hurricane forecast will test the strength and effectiveness of glazing systems throughout the Southeast and Eastern Seaboard. Pictured: The damaged Capital One Tower in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura in 2020. Photo courtesy of Josiah Pugh.

The enhanced forecast will test the strength and effectiveness of glazing systems throughout the Southeast and Eastern Seaboard. However, despite various regional codes that mandate shutters or impact-resistant glass in all openings, obstacles remain to adopt hurricane-resistant products.

“For the consumer, the two biggest hurdles are typically understanding what is required and ensuring the proper specification, receipt and installation of the product as well as understanding the lifetime cost-benefit scenarios between the various types of protection available,” says Julia Schimmelpenningh, architectural industry technical manager for the Advanced Material Interlayers business of Eastman Chemical Company. “For the system supplier, the testing and qualification can be costly and time-consuming as a limited amount of component substitution is allowed.”

Schimmelpenningh explains that there are three types of protective systems typically used for hurricane-resistant systems, including plywood covering, shutters and impact-resistant windows. Impact-resistant windows are commonly used because they remain in place and do not require additional activities pre- and post-storm to close or open a building.

Schimmelpenningh says impact-resistant glazing is usually constructed with laminated glass with an interlayer a bit thicker than conventional safety glass.

“These laminated glass constructions can be single-unit laminated glass, laminated insulating glass units, double laminated insulating glass units and multi-ply laminates made from multiple layers of glass, interlayers and plastics,” she says.

Before glazing products can be distributed, they must undergo testing. The process involves glazing the systems with candidate frame extrusions or formed parts and the selected glazing type. The systems are then anchored into mock-ups using the same materials that will be used during installation. The tests cover air, water, structural and security to determine air and water infiltration rates, structural load capacity and forced entry rating, says Schimmelpenningh.

During the tests, the glazing systems are impacted with the appropriately sized lumber at the center and corner of the glass and sometimes at the horizontal or vertical components of the frame. Schimmelpenningh states that if the missile doesn’t penetrate or cause the system to fail, it is then moved to the cyclical portion of the test.

“The system is then mounted on a wall, which is capable of drawing the glass in or pushing the glass out at a prescribed interval and pressure, which is simulating the oncoming and passing hurricane,” she says. “After 9,000 cycles, if the system and glazing are still intact, meeting the opening requirements, it is deemed to pass. This must be repeated a total of three times for a system to be qualified. Once the system is qualified, it obtains the ratings for that maximum size system and the components and anchorage used and can then be specified for use in a building.”

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