Volume 39, Issue 7, July  2004

Sign of the Times
 Safety, Security and Energy Efficiency 
Leads Trends in Storefronts and Entrances
by Tony Evans

The key to current trends in storefront framing and entrances can be summed up in one word: codes. Many of the new codes have come about due to the need for protective glazing—a term that covers both impact-resistant glazing and blast-resistant glazing. Also, new codes for thermal glazing have their roots in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) Green Building Rating System, which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Though they may have started in Dade County, special codes for impact-resistant glazing, often called hurricane-resistant glazing, have spread throughout the state and are moving up the East Coast and along the Gulf. Blast-resistant glazing got the government’s attention after the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and new codes also have been ntroduced in light of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Higher thermal performance codes have come about over the past couple of years, as the Green Building Rating System has become more of a force in the marketplace. It is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the Green Building Council, which represents all segments of the building industry, developed LEED, and the council continues to contribute to its evolution. Along the same lines, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) is a non-profit public/private collaboration of manufacturers, builders, designers, specifiers, code officials, consumers, utilities and regulators who establish energy-performance ratings for windows.

What Do New Codes Mean To Us?
So, what do the new protective glazing and environmental codes mean for all of us involved in storefront framing and entrance systems? The number-one change is that storefront and entrance systems are not as economical as they were before because more engineering is now involved. A trend toward regionalized codes is a second change that has been brought about. Impact-resistant glazing is prevalent along the East and Gulf Coasts. NFRC ratings are found most often in the Northern United States and traditional window markets, and LEED seems to be the strongest in the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest.

Blast-resistant glazing is designed to withstand a single, large explosion. Impact-resistant glazing needs to be able to stand up to sporadic point-specific impact and buffeting winds. High-performance thermal glazing is driven by the need for energy efficiency. And, the codes for all these types of glazing require coordination among the aluminum and glass manufacturers. No longer can we design our systems in isolation. The new generation of codes has made it imperative that our product designs consider the glazing held within the system.

Protective glazing has one main purpose, and that is to provide protection against injury to people. There is no single set of standards or codes by which government agencies and other organizations can evaluate the performance of glazing systems. The General Services Administration and the Department of Defense, however, have both developed codes for blast-resistant glazing. The South Florida Building Code was the country’s first building code to mandate windborne debris protection for all new construction, and the Miami-Dade County Building Code Compliance Office has issued building codes for South Florida.

The regionalization of the glazing industry has raised manufacturers costs on a national level over and above that of increased engineering. The manufacturer of customized products, along wit

Commodity Prices, Growth Trends
The increasing costs of aluminum over the past year or so (with costs up approximately 25 percent during the last nine months) is another important trend in storefronts and entrances. Much of this increase has been due to the exploding demand by China. Increases in energy costs also caused transportation prices to rise.

These rising commodity prices, along with a soft economy, have no doubt stunted the growth of commercial construction, which declined slightly in 2003 from the previous year. Most industry experts expect growth from 2003 to 2004 to be flat, although some growth may be seen in the Western region, specifically California and Nevada. 

One thing, however, is certain. Regardless of how many new buildings go up, the glazing systems they incorporate will be designed for greater performance, safety, security and energy-efficiency. 


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