Volume 39, Issue 8,
Experts Offer Predictions on the Future
of Hurricane Code and Regulations
by Megan Headly
It is a difficult matter even for trained meteorologists to predict the course of hurricanes, not to mention the extent of the destruction such natural disasters may leave behind. With no less of an impact on the safety of a structure, hurricane codes attempt to prepare and protect residential and commercial structures should the worst occur. When it comes to predicting the future of hurricane codes and glazing, an altogether different group of trained professionals have offered forecasts for what lies in the future.
Expansion Along the Coast
The first words offered by professionals in all areas of the glass industry deal with the inevitable growth of hurricane-resistant glazing.
“I think on the hurricane side what’s going to occur is the move from Florida on north, up to Maine even,” summarized Wim Vanderghinste, market manager with Surface Specialties/UCB. The addition of hurricane codes to a number of Southeastern and Eastern coastal states, and the growth in volume of hurricane-resistant units used in places such as the Carolinas, demonstrates this probable trend.
“Every state on the Eastern seaboard has legislation on hurricane-resistance,” said Joe Bandy, technical head with Harmon Inc. Florida led the way with its passage of the state building codes for hurricane-resistance in 2003. Texas, Bandy predicts, will be the next likely to pass legislation, but it will be only the first of the coastal states making changes to hurricane-resistance requirements. Bandy explained that for each state there are many different factors to consider. When taking those factors into regard, it takes time to decide what requirements individual states need to approve particular codes.
According to Shawn Donovan, marketing manager for Oldcastle Glass, one big factor contributing to the growth of hurricane-resistant glazing is product acceptance in non-mandated areas. “They [people in those areas] see the performance of the products,” he explained. Moreover, people also see how the insulating units designed for hurricane-resistance offer general impact-resistance and energy efficiency, as well.
In residential areas, for instance, many consumers concerned with security are seeking laminated glass because of the full-time protection that it offers. According to Steve Howes, president of Glasslam, more people are realizing the glass is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that other options, such as hurricane shutters, aren’t. As a result, they are choosing hurricane-resistant glazing systems. Howes said that having the code in place helps increase the usage of laminated glass. “The consumer wanting [the system] is much better [than it just being mandated].” Better, he said, because as consumers see the way the products work in mandated areas for a combination of reasons, including impact-resistance and energy efficiency, new customers in areas away from the Eastern and Southeastern coasts have begun requesting hurricane-resistant products.
The entire East Coast, certainly, is becoming more aware of the added protection hurricane-resistant glazing provides, with a mix of residential, comresponding to a surge of new products with increased demand.
“Hurricane glazing is going to be the trend of any coastal area,” said Bill Smith, facilities officer for Vistawall, who explained that this is in part due to security benefits. He predicted hurricane glazing will continue to be used for security purposes in institutional buildings located far from areas regulated by hurricane codes. “Both of these [hurricane- and impact-resistance] begin to knit together,” said Smith.
Smith explained that schools in Florida have long been used as safe houses, and he expects to see more schools in non-mandated zones constructed with a similar regard to impact.
Tom Mifflin, an engineer with Wausau Window and Wall Systems, agreed.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of colleges and universities, a lot of schools, that are looking for [hurricane-resistant systems]… Even if the codes haven’t been adopted, people are starting to hear about them.”
Hospitals are another facility seeing an increased use of hurricane-resistant systems. The widespread use of protective glazing on these facilities is something many agree will continue to spread to other institutional buildings.
The Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Fla., for example, was constructed with an interest in maximizing energy efficiency and providing impact protection. The building incorporated impact-resistant glass, supplied by Oldcastle Glass, and a spectrally-selective blue glass designed to minimize the solar heat gain and air conditioning load.
While hurricane-resistant glazing has gone through a lot of changes in the 12 years since Hurricane Andrew, the changes it’s facing from outside influences offer entirely new challenges for the future. From no protection at all to the state-imposed regulations of today, many professionals in the industry suggest that systems are now facing the influences of the International Code Council (ICC) and its International Building Code (IBC).
“The evolution of codes is driving the use of hurricane laminates,” said Sara Theiss, protective glazing specialist for Viracon. Theiss predicts that changes in energy codes will be increasingly moving production toward insulating units and coatings, incorporating both hurricane-resistance and energy efficiency.
Nanette McElman, market manager of specialty applications for Solutia Inc., agreed. She explained that the new energy codes approved by the ICC for 2004 have lowered U values to such a level that they are going to mandate double-paned windows throughout the United States, except for Florida.
“It’s changing how hurricane-resistant windows are made,” said McElman. “The single-paned aluminum windows we’ve grown accustomed to will only be sold in the Southern tip of Florida.”
McElman added that the new mandated double-paned, coated windows will be nearly four times the price of what is commonly used now. What is good for vinyl and insulating glass manufacturers, she said, will push a large selection of products that don’t meet the new requirements out of the market.
Other industry professionals look at changes in the state codes from a different perspective.
“The adoption of the IBC is driving the hurricane codes all along the East Coast,” said Oldcastle Glass’ director of laminated products, John Bush. “Even Connecticut is adopting the IBC since portions of its counties are in zones that reach 120 miles per hour (mph).”
Similarly, Doug Penn, marketing director with YKK, anticipates that within two years Florida and most East Coast states will adopt a version of the IBC. Going up the coast and noting how many states have adopted hurricane codes or are in the process of doing so, including South Carolina, Georgia and New York, he predicts the adoption of the IBC for portions of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and the coastal areas of North Carolina.
However, Bush explained that it is possible for states that frequently take the brunt of hurricanes’ high winds and waves to lessen the building codes through their adoption of the IBC. According to Bush, because the IBC is a model code, counties are able to tinker with the requirements and thus, in some cases, weaken the code.
For instance, in 2001 the North Carolina Building Code Council voted to eliminate the windborne debris provisions from the IBC codes, although research from organizations, such as the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), showed that protected windows keep internal pressure low and greatly decrease the damage associated with wind and water entering the building. When provisions were later instated, in January 2004, the state decided not to enforce the code over the usual 120-mph wind zone, but instead outlined a zone covering from the Atlantic Ocean to 1,500 feet in from the waterline.
In South Carolina, although 90 percent of the population along the coast lives within areas enforcing the IBC windborne debris requirements, according to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), the state has placed a moratorium on enforcement of those requirements until adoption of the 2003 edition of the International Residential Codes (IRC) in July 2005. According to the state’s code study committee, enforcing the requirements may convince homeowners that protected openings mean they are safe during any hurricane. Rather than support a false sense of security, which the committee felt might lead to more people ignoring evacuation orders, the state opted to pass the IBC with this amendment. In addition, at the point of the approval of the amendment, the committee suggested that few window types were available that met the requirements for impact-resistance.
In addition, the 2002 Florida Building Code (FBC) eliminated the majority of the Florida panhandle from the windborne debris region requirements. The code stated that windborne debris protection is required for all areas one mile inland within a 110-mile wind line except for the panhandle exclusion zone, which requires protection one mile inland regardless of wind speed. However, maps show that much of the panhandle faces winds from 120 mph to 130 mph, a larger area than protected by the state requirements.
According to Bandy there are also instances in which jurisdictions have weakened regulations from the FBC, allowing builders to use procedures that Dade County would not accept.
“In Dade County you can sell only what you’ve tested,” Bandy said. However, the FBC allows for the rational analysis of related systems, rather than individual testing for each system under specific conditions. “They test a bunch of sizes and factors to have results on hand,” he said. In addition, the FBC does not require replacement updates unless the building is an essential facility, such as a hospital or school, meaning older buildings may not meet modern codes. “Dade County does require replacements to meet codes,” he added.
Mike Sebold, business manager with Tremco Inc., predicted that hurricane-resistant systems will continue on their current trend, displacing conventional glazing in the Southeast and Eastern coastal environments. He continued his forecast by adding that we can expect to see more impact glazing, even though the cost of such materials is considerably greater than the cost of conventional systems.
“Already it’s four to six times more expensive than standard glazing,” Sebold said.
As manufacturers are well aware, the added expense is not just seen by the contractors and homeowners. Testing the glazing systems is also a very expensive process.
Companies work close together because glass, interlayers, sealants and framing are subjected as a whole to the large and small missile tests and then must withstand the pressure of the cycling tests, substitutes for the dangers of flying debris and wind load that threaten structures in the course of a hurricane. Donovan said that while his company produces the glass they also work closely with other component manufacturers because if one element fails testing, the entire system must begin again.
Growing All the Time
Based on the number of new products being introduced, the industry’s predictions that the hurricane-resistant market will continue to grow seem to be in check.
For now, the high demand for the systems has increased all areas of production. New types of insulating glass units are being designed to fit larger openings while still resisting impact tests. Interlayers must meet similar requirements while becoming thinner than ever. Tints and coatings options are also expanding to cover energy efficiency for hurricane-resistant units.
Mifflin added, “From a product standpoint you really have to look at what’s specified … You have to look at combined impact and energy and system design.” More than just the combinations of requirements, the combinations of elements in each system are driving the creation of new products.
So, while the possibilities for future designs seem endless, one thing is certain: if meteorologists were as certain about the course of hurricanes as the glass industry seems to be about the course of hurricane products and codes, there would be much less of a surprise to the public between June and November when the winds come on strong along the coastline.
|On the Cover: Lessons Learned in Paradise
Nestled in the tranquil paradise of the Caribbean lies the 15-acre private Ritz-Carlton Club®, St. Thomas. With pristine white sand beaches and magnificent mountainous backdrops, here the best views in the Caribbean are accompanied by Eastern breezes that speak of endless adventure; that is until those gentle breezes turn into a potentially deadly tropical storm or hurricane. Mother Nature has unleashed her fury on this tropical paradise with enough regularity that window manufacturers and glazing contractors working in the Caribbean are keen to the design requirements of this seemingly calm climate.
Orlando, Fla.-based WinDoor Inc., a manufacturer of windows and doors, was selected as the window supplier at this exclusive private residence property.
“Fortunately, windows in this region must now be Miami-Dade certified,” said Frank Lukens, president of WinDoor. “[Our] products are tested and certified to meet AAMA standards and Miami-Dade protocols, and are engineered for a lifetime of protection from hurricane force winds and flying debris, not to mention intense tropical solar ultraviolet rays. We chose to install Oldcastle Glass’ StormGlass™ in the Ritz-Carlton Club®, St. Thomas project, which has a unique, high-performance interlayer that is stiffer than standard polyvinyl butyral (PVB), and can sustain greater wind pressures.”
Lukens has learned that projects abroad can often present some unique considerations and offers this advice to contemplate before beginning an overseas project:
Consider the extra costs associated with shipping overseas. “Be aware of weight restrictions. Laminated glass is heavier than ordinary glass, and weight per square foot should be considered. More containers are needed to ship the glass, which will always drive up the cost.”
Check product quality. WinDoor began the Ritz-Carlton Club®, St. Thomas project using a glass-clad polycarbonate laminate that experienced 100-percent de-glazing failure during construction. “We had to go back and replace all the windows in the first three buildings. That’s when we reassessed our product, and decided to use StormGlass™,” said Lukens.
Avoid re-makes. Re-makes are always difficult, especially overseas, and re-shipping only adds to the already expensive shipping costs.
Avert insurance woes. Insurance doesn’t cover manufactured products; it only covers the damage caused by the product’s failure. “We learned this the hard way when the polycarbonate laminate failed in the beginning of the project. Working with reputable contractors and suppliers is critical to the success of any project.”
Info www.windoorinc.com. www.oldcastleglass.com.
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