Like-Minded Thinking Australia’s Fenestration
Industry Gathered to
Discuss Impact Products, Trends and More
by Ellen Rogers
If Hurricane Andrew made South Florida and much of the Eastern
seaboard realize the importance of safe and sound building components—including
doors and windows—then perhaps Cyclone Yasi will have a similar effect
in parts of Australia. The storm struck the Land Down Under earlier this
year, leaving behind an estimated $3 billion in damages. Researchers at
the Cyclone Testing Station and the School of Engineering and Physical
Sciences, James Cook University conducted a study that “reinforced the
need to design the whole low rise building envelope, including cladding,
doors, windows, roller doors, eaves lining and skylights to resist the
expected ultimate limit states wind forces. It also highlighted the role
of dominant openings in determining the internal pressures in buildings.”
Cyclones were a topic of discussion during Ausfenex 2011, which encompassed
the annual meetings of the Australian Window Association and the Australian
Glass and Glazing Association. The event took place September 21-23 in
Queensland, Australia and brought more than 500 people together from both
groups for a program that covered a range of topics.
Windows and Storms
Cam Leitch of the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University, led
the discussion about windows and cyclones. Leitch stressed that for the
windows it’s important to make sure that all components, connections,
fasteners, etc. are designed and tested as a whole system.
“The windload action must be less than the actual capacity,” Leitch told
his audience. “We can not control the windload action, but we can control
the actual capacity by using the correct design parameters, etc.”
Speaking of external pressure, Leitch explained this is when the wind
blows over the buildings.
“The house diverts the streamlines; the house forces a change to the wind-flow
streamlines,” he said, but stressed that the big issue is internal pressure.
When Glass Breaks
“[When glass breaks], the internal pressure pressurizes the void space
of the house,” Leitch said, noting that often when the door or window
breaks, the pressurization is what pulls the roof off.
Likewise, wind-borne debris is also important. Leitch said new windload
standards have increased wind speeds and researchers have found that debris
can accelerate very quickly.
As a result of Cyclone Yasi, which Leitch called “a big fellow,” research
and studies have shown the importance of window performance. Findings
have shown a need for better door and window connections.
“Doors and windows are just critical for good performance of the building
envelope,” said Leitch.
Julie Schimmelpenningh of Solutia has given numerous presentations around
the globe on everything from glass and glazing trends, codes and standards,
and laminated glass. Her stint Down Under was no exception as she spoke
on “Glass and Windows – A World of Possibilities.”
She began with a bit of history. Looking back to castles, she pointed
out there were no windows but “the key as houses evolved was that people
wanted comfort,” she said, and explained that the more glass was used
the more we learned. For example, she said we eventually found that putting
glass on the south side of the building would allow the sun in and plants
could be grown inside—in greenhouses.
She also talked about the importance of energy requirements.
“You have to look at energy considerations because codes are driving us
that way to conserve as much as possible,” she said.
She also added that the trend toward increasingly larger buildings also
means increasingly larger glass and windows.
“Everyone wants to be the biggest building in the world,” she said.
Glass Market Report
Just as the North American market has been impacted by increasing imports
of Chinese glass, so, too, has Australia. And as the U.S. construction
industry continues to struggle, the Australian market is doing so as well.
Steve Choat of Viridian gave a report on the Australian glass market and
noted that in the past two years the market has continued to see a gradual
decline. He said in the last year there has been an 8-percent decline
and the last quarter was particularly weak.
Of products driving the Australian glass market, Choat said windows represent
about 69 percent of total glass requirements. Of the number, 54 percent
is residential and non-residential is about 46 percent.
He said underlying demand for residential glass is quoted at 180,000 housing
units and there’s a four-year average of 150,000 so there is a big backlog.
Choat said confidence in the market is critical, as is the availability
Likewise, there are many opportunities with respect to energy efficiency.
“There are plenty of solutions, but we have to sell the benefits,” he
said. “Sell more effectively … sell those high value products [so we]
have a more flourishing industry.”
He added, “Yes it’s challenging ... but [there’s] underlying strength
... sell the benefits to consumers.”
And the same holds true in the United States: selling the benefits of
windows could just help keep the industry moving forward, despite slow
Ellen Rogers is the assistant editor of DWM magazine
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