Volume 38, Issue 8, August 2003
Don’t Be Blown Away
Proper Planning for Hurricane Protection
by Steve Howes
The window and door industry has changed dramatically since the devastation of hurricane Andrew in August of 1992. Company owners and product engineers now must worry that their product lines pass testing protocols more stringent than ever. The new codes implemented by Dade County require that windows and doors not covered by hurricane shutters be tested at an independent test lab as compliant with such tests as air and water, static pressure, impact and wind cycling. Although some test labs are not as independent as they claim to be, and despite the fact that some have a tendency to gouge your pockets, the majority of independent test labs do an excellent job at a fair price. The industry is also seeing some large window and door companies invest in their own air cannons and cyclic pressure walls for research and development purposes, giving them better knowledge of their products’ performance in their own private settings prior to third-party testing.
When addressing the many problems associated with the whole concept of impact product testing, I emphasize to my customers and other companies involved in testing programs that proper planning is of the utmost priority to make their endeavors as painless as possible. Spending a lot of money on testing, consultants, engineering and Dade County fees is not beneficial if you launch a product only to find that you should have tested larger sizes, higher pressures, insulating glass, alternate glazing methods or products that are priced more competitively in your market.
Priorities in Order
The first priority is to always consult with the sales and marketing department. They will tell you if the range of products you intend to test meets the criteria for a marketable product. Could you imagine telling a potential window customer planning to build a new home on the ocean that his million-dollar view can be observed only through small window openings, or telling somebody who needs to obtain a design pressure of negative 126 pressure per square foot (psf) on the corner windows of his commercial property that the best your system could achieve is 85 psf? Poor planning and design can result in a significant loss in sales.
Once you are confident that what you are about to test is correct for the intended market, you will need to think of your production. Will you be able to produce your product in a timely and cost-effective manner? Many companies successfully pass their entire tests, sell lots of product and then realize the labor intensity prohibits them from making a profit. With proper planning, you may decide that an alternate glazing method (such as dry glazing opposed to wet glazing) could be the difference between cost-prohibitive and cost-effective. Simply by researching two different types of glazing methods, you could decide to use a dry-glaze method and save absorbent amounts of money in silicone and then note a significant savings in labor. Another example of proper planning would be considering the benefits of testing tempered, laminated glass as opposed to heat-strengthened, laminated glass. For example, 1/8-inch tempered glass will give you a higher design pressure than 3/16-inch heat strengthened. By using lighter glass, you save in labor, glass and hardware costs.
The hurricane-impact market has grown from three counties in Southern Florida to almost the entire Eastern seaboard and around the Gulf including Texas. Proper planning and awareness of the consequences of decision making will play a major role as to whether or not you create a profitable product line or a product that passes testing, but applies to nowhere within this huge market.
Steve Howes Is the president of Glasslam N.G.I. Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla.
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