Volume 10, Issue 3 - March 2009

Impact Windows
Not Just for Hurricane Protection
by Valerie Block

WinDoor started marketing impact windows three years ago and sees an increasing percentage of its sales in that category. Other door and window manufacturers, such as Andersen, are also seeing growth. And at PGT Industries customers are writing letters thanking the company for the increased protection impact windows provide. All this proves that impact windows aren’t just for hurricane-prone areas—they can be sold anywhere for increased safety and security. So for manufacturers who aren’t selling these products currently but are looking for ways to diversify this may be an area to consider. 

When police called a West Palm Beach father at his office recently to tell him about an attempted invasion at his residence, the man’s first concern was his 14-year-old daughter, home sick from school. Her mother had stepped out to pick up medicine at the pharmacy, and so it was his teenage daughter who called 911, describing someone trying to break through a French door and then two rear windows. 

Fortunately, the attacker didn’t get through; he was stopped by laminated glass used to meet the high wind code requirements in hurricane-prone Florida.

“Our customer wrote a letter saying how relieved and happy he was that his hurricane windows had prevented a break-in,” says Carole Reams, product manager for WinGuard windows and doors, manufactured by Florida-based PGT Industries. “It was as if he had just discovered a great bonus feature in a product he had bought for a different reason.”

Motivating Customers
According to the FBI crime statistics, 34 percent of home break-ins occur through the front door, 23 percent through a first floor window, and 22 percent through a back door. But it’s not just about numbers when a homeowner considers his or her own family in their own home.

“We see people thinking about security in layers,” says Reams. “Other useful measures such as fences, dogs and alarm systems are also part of the homeowner’s thinking. When they learn about the protection available with laminated glass, it becomes an attractive option as well.”

Several years ago, an ad hoc committee of the International Building Code (IBC) met to discuss the need for security requirements related to bomb blasts or unwanted intrusions. It was felt then that building codes are meant to define and assure minimum acceptable levels of performance, and that added security requirements would go beyond the scope of the IBC.

That means consumers won’t be forced by codes to buy security glass. Instead, they’ll be motivated by the idea that extra safety and security are worth it.

Tammy Amos, global marketing manager for our company, directed market research in early 2008 to examine consumer readiness for laminated glass in residential windows. An independent firm, commissioned by our company, surveyed a consumer panel of 103 current homeowners to quantify their perceived value for windows that also served as an intrusion barrier, UV filter, energy saver and noise reducer. 

“Our consumer test group gave the concept a strong thumbs up. On a scale of 1 to 10, such windows were given a 7.2 rating for interest level and an 8.1 perception rating as being new and unique. Price-value testing showed many consumers easily willing to pay up to double the price of normal windows for these added features,” says Amos.

Impact Windows: Beyond Wind Code Zones 
With more impact windows being built to meet wind code requirements, prices are coming down and availability continues to improve. Manufacturers such as Gorell Windows and Doors are giving special emphasis to security windows. Larger companies such as Andersen Windows also are seeing their growth in impact glazing extending beyond wind-coded regions.

“Besides the southeastern United States, we see impact window sales growth in the Great Lakes region and the Pacific Northwest,” says Andersen marketing manager Steve Berg. “Wind exposure often starts the discussion, but when the homeowner realizes the added benefits ... energy efficiency, sound reduction, and added security ... We find many are ready to go beyond code for better piece of mind.”

According to Berg, Andersen’s typical security-oriented buyer is well-educated, with high earnings, and is more safety-conscious than buyers are otherwise. “Boomers nearing retirement are often concerned about a second home, often a seasonal home. They also tend to consider longer-term paybacks for the extra security, comfort and energy reduction benefits in their primary residence,” says Berg.

WinDoor, a Florida-based door and window manufacturer, started marketing impact windows three years ago and sees an increasing percentage of their sales in that category. Marketing director George Hanus explains that this year a major insurance underwriter will start to refuse to cover Florida coastal zone homes priced at more than $750,000, unless the homes have windborne-debris-rated impact glazing or shutters. Condo associations are also influencing the purchase of impact windows by writing bylaws assigning building-wide damage liability to individual condo owners who haven’t met the code requirements.“

The retrofit market for impact windows and sliding doors is becoming very important,” says Hanus. We are developing new security-minded solutions using traditional and advanced glass interlayers. “Consumers rely on easy-to-compare security ratings when choosing a padlock,” says Hanus. “Why not the same type of rating system in the future for security windows?”

Testing for Burglar Resistance
Existing tests for security glazing include UL 972 Test Method for Burglary Resisting Glazing Material, which has been around for many years, resulting in a significant amount of information about glass compliance. This test focuses on the glass only, versus the hurricane impact tests, which also look at the whole window system. For the UL 972 test, a 5-lb. steel ball is dropped from different heights onto the glass (see chart below). 

Another forced entry standard that has been used for low-level security is ASTM F1233. This test is often used to demonstrate high-security detention (prison) glazing performance; however, lower-level security ratings also can be applied to burglar-resistant applications.

There are also ISO standards (ISO 16936 parts 1-4) that include four test methods designed to assess low-level security of glazing. The test methods include a repetitive ball drop, repetitive impact of a hammer and axe at room temperature, a manual attack, and a pendulum impact under thermally and fire-stressed conditions.

The Future Outlook is Strong
In an industry grounded in building codes and bid prices, it can often seem tough to up-sell the added protection available from the latest doors and windows built with laminated glass. However, wind-code-compliant products are delivering surprising real life performance and creating new advocates every day, as homeowners become more aware of the energy, noise reduction, UV safety and intrusion protection benefits also available from these windows. 

Valerie Block, CDT, LEED AP, serves as senior marketing specialist for DuPont Glass Laminating Solutions.

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