Volume 40,   Issue 11                      November  2005


Serving, Protecting, Still Standing
Gulfport Federal Building Resists Katrina
by Greg Carney

Editor’s note: After six weeks of dealing with damage to his home caused by Hurricane Katrina, Greg Carney, technical director for the Glass Association of North America investigated the scope of damage to glass and glazing systems along the Coast of Mississippi. This month, he shares some of his findings with the readers of USGlass magazine. 

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought Category 4 hurricane winds and directly related storm waters to the town of Gulfport, Miss. Having also been in Gulfport during Hurricane Camille on August 17, 1969 (I was 12 years old, but remember it well), I was not anxious to see the destruction but knew there would be information that needed to be shared.

Ready and Waiting
After being denied access in my car, I was granted permission to walk into downtown Gulfport, and visited the Dan M. Russell, Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse. The 220,600- square-foot facility, completed in August of 2003, features curtainwalls and punched openings with blast- and hurricane-impact resistant glazing. 
It was amazing to see that the federal building had withstood the hurricane forces with minimal visible damage. While the building was officially closed, a General Services Administration (GSA) representative agreed to provide information and limited access to assess the damage.

Closer investigation of the building façade found a concentrated area of the southeast facing curtainwall with broken fully tempered outboard lites in both vision and spandrel areas, as well as sporadic breakage of the fully tempered outboard lites in the lower section of the south-facing elevation. While the elevation orientation was consistent with the hurricane wind pressure direction, it’s unlikely that the breakage was a result of wind load pressure. 

Staying in Place
The southeast quadrant of the federal property is occupied by an office annex. The two-story building features the original brick façade of the Gulfport High School building and new blast- and hurricane-impact resistant windows in the exterior walls and courtyard area. Due to the building’s location and wind direction, the roofing material includes small amounts of gravel. During the hurricane, the outer perimeter windows of the office annex were covered with protective materials. Courtyard windows were not protected, though, and several of the south facing windows suffered breakage of the outboard lites as a result of small missile impact. The orientation of the two buildings and breakage locations point to the roof gravel as the likely source of impact breakage. 

Limited access to the federal building did not allow for a full inspection from the interior. From the allowed access, only one laminated inboard lite of glass was found to have been broken in the vertical wall. The lack of impact breakage of laminated inboard lites suggests the possibility of a single or limited wind gust that may have brought roof gravel impact breakage of the tempered outboard lites of glass. Breakage of an unknown origin was also found in the sloped glazing system in the federal building atrium. Despite the breakage, both the federal building and office annex were protected by the laminated glass components in all openings. 

In light of the devastation to surrounding buildings, the courthouse is a testament to GSA construction standards and the performance of the fully tempered and laminated glass and their framing systems. 

The Author:
Greg Carney serves as the technical director for the Glass Association of North America. He is a 24-year veteran of the glass and glazing industry.

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