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Volume 6   Issue 4                May 2005

Aluminum Offers Great Benefits for Residential Windows and Doors

by Bill Deuschle

The massive damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in Florida and the other recent horrific costal storms, have taught experts that violent winds, flying debris and heavy rain can be the major cause of window and door failure in residential homes. Since these hurricanes and storms, there has been an increase in the use of aluminum for windows and doors to withstand the combative conditions. Unlike wood, aluminum actually keeps the envelope of the home secure, so even if the glass breaks, the aluminum windows and doors help the home from losing its roof and reduce the overall home destruction. Its hard surface resists denting and weathering, hence making it the perfect choice especially for coastal homes.
A Variety of Benefits
Aluminum windows and doors are durable, flexible, strong, and they hold up well under windy conditions, especially in areas of the country being hit by the devastating storms. 
New building codes and regulations have actually been enacted in several states to provide increased protection for lives and properties in areas subjected to such weather. Some coastal counties are required to strengthen houses to withstand winds of 110-150 miles per hour.
From a window manufacturer’s standpoint, aluminum is also beneficial because there is a huge market for blast windows due to the storms on both the East and West coasts. Aluminum window manufacturers who produce blast and hurricane products should have an increased volume of business in years to come. There is a positive upswing for the aluminum window manufacturer’s market. In addition, with so much emphasis being placed on “green,” aluminum’s recycling qualities make it the number one choice when producing a “green” building.
Aluminum’s structural integrity is more stable than vinyl and wood. It is made from bauxite, a mineral easily converted to this versatile metal. Aluminum continues to be an excellent choice for fenestration because of its ability to accept various finishes. It also will not rust, warp at high temperatures, shrink at freezing temperatures or absorb moisture. These are other important features for homes affected by bad weather. It’s easier to install than wood, and more resistant to frame deformation than wood or vinyl caused by climactic changes and building movement.
Aluminum is strong and rigid. Unlike wood (which rots), and vinyl (which becomes brittle at low temperatures, and flexible at high temperatures), aluminum maintains its strength and rigidity. Moreover, aluminum’s properties will not change over time. This means an aluminum window is strong and long lasting. 
Aluminum windows also offer more glass and less frame. This is popular in homes where view is critical to the homeowner, architect or builder. Aluminum is also recyclable and provides more color choices for the homeowner. Overall, aluminum windows are attractive, energy-efficient, reliable, and they possess a number of benefits making them a great choice both for new construction and replacement.
“From an environmental standpoint, aluminum is recyclable and therefore is the most reasonable material of choice for windows and doors,” said Greg Patzer, director of government relations for the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC).
Thermal efficiency or the window’s ability to minimize heat loss from the inside or heat gain from the outside is important. Today, aluminum windows are often made with thermally broken framing. This creates highly-thermally efficient frames, and provides durability, strength, stability and corrosion resistance for customers.
According to Patzer, expansion and contraction, both of the building and the window-frame materials are two of the factors that determine long-term window reliability and ease of operation. Changes in temperature and humidity can cause some window-frames to bend leading to seal failure, air and water leakage, and difficulty in opening and closing windows. Because aluminum is not affected by temperature variations and is stable in changing humidities, it maintains effective weather sealing and ease of operation over the long term. Statistics show, aluminum is a strong material—23.2 times stiffer than vinyl, and 7.2 times stiffer than soft wood, according to the AEC.
Aluminum is a stable material, with consistent and predictable properties. Moreover, it’s available in long-lasting baked enamel or anodized finishes—which adds to its beauty as a building material. Its unique combination of enduring properties means long-term performance with minimum maintenance. Today’s aluminum windows use long-lasting weather seals, which can be replaced easily after years of service. Modern baked-enamel and anodized finishes ensure frequent repainting. 
“Because of its structural strength, aluminum applications continue to increase—up to 85-90 percent in commercial usage,” said Tom Culp, PhD, owner of Birch Point Consulting and AEC consultant. “For residential, due to the hurricanes and coastal storms, the structural performance of aluminum is becoming just as important in homes too.” 
Today, aluminum windows offer similar thermal efficiency to wood and vinyl—plus they offer the additional benefits of long-term durability, stability and less structural deterioration from coastal storms. Thus, this material is a viable material for use by window manufacturers.

Bill Deuschle serves as vice president of corporate quality for TRACO based in Cranberry Township, Pa. 

Aluminum—Very Much Alive with Advantages
by Alan Goldberg

The spring meeting of the Aluminum Association, which took place March 7-8, 2005 at Chicago’s McCormick Place and the Intercontinental Chicago, coincided with a number of events. Aluminum USA was one of eight industry trade shows to participate in National Manufacturing Week. The four-day event, also held at McCormick Place, opened on March 7. 

Patrick Muessig, technical services manager for Azon USA Inc., gave a presentation that would be of interest to window and door manufacturers who may have missed the meeting. He spoke about the use of aluminum with a structural thermal barrier as the material of choice for fenestration worldwide.

He pointed out that the theme in construction is conservation in all forms and that a return to aluminum products is somewhat a historical revolution.

“Extruded aluminum is one of the highest consumers of energy during its manufacturing process, of all building materials currently utilized. However its end use, in every market it serves, results in the most energy-efficient, green products available,” said Muessig. 

He said the use of aluminum in windows, doors, storefronts, skylights and curtainwall is the main component for all building envelopes and facades. Describing the benefits of aluminum, he emphasized strength and durability.

“Aluminum has one of the highest strength to weight ratios of all materials used in the industry,” he said. 

He added that it is at least seven times more rigid than wood and 23 times more rigid than vinyl. 

“Aluminum exceeds other materials in its ability to withstand wind loads under high-rise edifice applications or in regions prone to hurricanes and typhoons.”

Comparing the stability of aluminum to other materials, he said it is immune to climactic effects unlike wood and other organic materials that require impregnation and coating to resist degradation. Under stress and subjected to changes in climate, wood and wood composites can be twisted, warped and can change dimensions.

Because vinyl or polyvinyl chloride is a blend of chemicals, these require plasticizers, coloring agents and lubricants. Aluminum, he pointed out, maintains its extruded form and rigidity which prevents frame deformation caused by building movement, climate changes or weathering over a period of time. The result is that windows and doors remain operable and reliable throughout the life of a building.

Muessig explained that aluminum offers unlimited possibilities in design because it can be extruded in any shape specified.

“It is limited only by the imagination of the designer,” he said. 

Aluminum’s structural strength is a significant benefit regarding the latest building codes.

He pointed out that today’s codes require windows and doors that offer blast, hurricane and intrusion protection.

“Aluminum, by its very nature, has the impact and deflection capabilities to withstand these rigorous tests and still offer beauty and comfort. It also has the ability to offer security from forced entry that other materials cannot offer (to the same extent).”
He also referred to one of aluminum’s most attractive characteristics--

“Aluminum is one of the most recycled materials in use today,” he said. “When it 
is recycled and reproduced, it returns to its original state with all properties, as 
originally produced, in tact.”

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