A Look Back, and Ahead

By Trey Barrineau

The devastating hurricanes that hit Florida and the Caribbean in 2017 caused dozens of deaths and billions of dollars in damage. However, a growing body of data suggests that stronger building codes greatly reduced the devastation caused by the storms.

Despite that, most of the experts agreed that more work needs to be done to maintain strong building codes.

During the recent American Architectural Manufacturers Association Southeast Region meeting in Orlando, Fla., Dean Ruark of PGT Innovations, along with colleagues Lynn Miller and Bob Beaird, shared early findings from a major post-hurricane study sponsored by the Florida Building Commission and led by David Prevatt of the University of Florida’s Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering. (PGT was a key participant in the study, and Prevatt told DWM in an email that the final research report was expected to be released in late summer 2018.)

To illustrate Irma’s ferocity, Beaird discussed a home in the Florida Keys that PGT visited as part of the study. It was built in 1980 and remodeled in 2004. Debris struck the home’s glass multiple times, and a 2-by-10 even penetrated a door frame, proof that missiles were larger and moving faster than current industry criteria.

Ruark said that’s something he saw as well while taking part in the study.

“In my own experience conducting damage assessments in the Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma, I saw instances of storm surge, water intrusion, as well as windborne debris size, speed and frequency, that exceeded the design limits of current industry standards,” he said.

Ruark noted that great progress has been made in Florida’s building codes since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew caused $25 billion in damages in the lower part of the state. Miami-Dade County continues to lead the nation in impact testing criteria, stringency and enforcement. However, he said that not all impact-resistant products are created—or tested—equally. Ruark said missile speed, size, location and frequency should be reviewed with collective findings from universities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Society of Civil Engineers, insurers and industry stakeholders.

Ruark also suggested that changes could be coming to the regulatory environment in the years ahead.

However, those revisions might not be coming anytime soon. Code consultant Dick Wilhelm points out that a special committee set up by Florida in the wake of the 2017 storm sea-son didn’t recommend any immediate changes to the state’s building codes.

Wilhelm said the Florida House of Representatives set up the Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which caused $6.55 billion in property damage claims, $2.5 billion in losses to agriculture and forced 6.5 million people to evacuate.

The committee gathered information, solicited ideas for improvement, and addressed hurricane preparedness and response. It evaluated the performance of the Florida Building Code to determine if any changes were needed, and it identified additional mechanisms and incentives to harden existing homes against disaster.

Wilhelm said the committee’s report, which came out in mid-January 2018, included no recommendations on building codes/standards or structure hardening. He said the big takeaway is that the Florida Building Code made a difference.

“The committee recognized that this code is one of the most progressive and best enforced in the country,” Wilhelm said.

How Bad Will This Season Be?

In May, The Weather Channel updated its forecast for the 2018 hurricane season. The network predicts 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes between June 1 and late November. That’s down from a forecast of 13 storms and six hurricanes that it announced in early April The reason? Cooler water temperatures in the Atlantic and warmer temperatures in the Pacific. Those factors historically have slowed hurricane development and intensity, the network says.

Most Florida Residents Aren’t Prepared

About half of Florida’s homeowners haven’t taken recommended measures to safeguard their property against hurricanes, according to a new survey conducted by sliding door manufacturer Origin Global.

In a survey that asked 1,000 of the state’s residents about what measures they’ve taken to prepare for hurricanes, less than one in seven (13.2 percent) said they had installed the correct doors to cope with this type of event, while roof protection was only an issue for 14.6 percent. A total of 18 percent said they had installed impact-resistant windows, and 16.4 percent had taken steps to secure outside objects from high winds.

However, a third (30.9 percent) said they had planned ahead by stocking up on emergency supplies, while just under a fifth (18.3 percent) have invested in storm shutters.

Surprisingly, half of respondents (50.2 percent) said they hadn’t put any of the measures in place to protect their home.

According to Florida’s Office for Coastal Management, in 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma combined to cause $265 billion in damages in the U.S. and Caribbean.

“Our findings show that, despite the severity of last year’s hurricane season and the susceptibility of Florida to the elements, a surprising number of residents have not protected their homes against damage which could potentially cost them thousands of dollars to repair,” said Joe Halsall, digital marketing manager at Origin Global. “And although hurricane insurance provides some peace of mind, your policy will only cover so much—with a high proportion of claims going unpaid.”

Data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation shows that of the 610,166 claims made by homeowners after Hurricane Irma, around a third were closed without payment.

South Florida After the Storm

Dan Lavrich, the owner of Lavrich & Associates Consulting Engineers in Florida, said South Florida fared pretty well in Hurricane Irma.After the storm, Lavrich said his team inspected several buildings in South Florida that ranged in age from four to 55 years old. He said structural damage was almost non-existent in every case with only a few minor exceptions.“This surprised me,” he said.Despite that, Lavrich agreed with Ruark that building codes and standards must be re-evaluated to provide better water resistance during high-wind events.Lavrich said that there can be both design and installation issues when water penetration occurs. Manufacturers should be aware of this so they can influence improvements. He said proper design and continued maintenance are essential, though too many people buy into the myth that because a window leaked during a high wind event, it must be replaced.

Guide to Impact-Rated Products

Here are some impact-rated fenestration products of note that are designed to protect life and property from devastating coastal storms.


Sierra Pacific H3 FeelSafe

Inspired by the recent spate of destructive storms in U.S. coastal regions, Sierra Pacific Windows unveiled its new storm-tested, impact-rated H3 FeelSafe windows in 2017. The new line is designed for building requirements along the U.S. eastern coastline with a DP of +50/-60 to meet Zone III rating.H3 FeelSafe’s aesthetic features include its continuous head and sill. It’s offered with a full range of design options—such as colors, hardware finishes, SDL bars—and standard AAMA 2604 powder coat finish with optional AAMA 2605 finish.At the core of the H3 line is Sierra Pacific’s patented Fusion Technology, which integrates extruded aluminum, vinyl and solid wood into one window. The company says this fusion results in improved energy efficiency and performance, enhanced aesthetics, an extreme seal, and easier installation.


Sikasil SG-10

SikasilSG-10 is a fast-curing, one-component, non-sag, elastomeric, neutral cure silicone sealant. It’s suitable for window fabrication and has passed the Florida Hurricane Glazing Code when used in designed systems.

The product meets the requirements of ASTM-C920, Type S,Grade NS, Class 25, Use NT, T, M, G, A, O; TT-S-00230C, Type II, Class A; TT-S-001543A, Class A; CAN/CGSB-19.13-M87, AAMA 802.3 Type I and II, AAMA 803.3 Type I, AAMA 805.2, AAMA 808.3 and California Air Resources Board 2003 requirements for Volatile Organic Compound content.


Weatherwell Elite Aluminum Shutters

Weatherwell Elite Aluminum Shutters from Australian manufacturer TWO USA have passed the Miami-Dade hurricane wind test, according to the company. They feature different security settings to open or close a space to the elements, and they also come with a high-grade powder coat, so they are virtually maintenance free (unlike a painted product).

Wall And Door Systems

GPX Hurricane System

Safti First’s GPX Hurricane System provides maximum fire and hurricane resistance in one aesthetically pleasing, easy to install glazed assembly that can be further customized to include energy efficient, decorative or sound-abating make-ups. The frames are offered in standard and custom finishes including high-performance fluoropolymer finishes by PPG, clear anodized, bronze anodized, black anodized, Decoral, ornamental metal, and more. This system provides a breakthrough for designers who, in the past, either put fire shutters on hurricane impact glazing, or put hurricane shutters on fire-rated glass.

Doors And Windows

LaCantina Folding System

LaCantina Doors’ aluminum thermally controlled impact-rated folding system is the result of an extensive design process focused on structural performance and energy efficiency. The company says it passed the stringent Miami Dade County Impact testing protocols and achieved an impressive DP 70 rating and is approved for use in the HVHZ and other windborne debris areas.

The system comes with a contemporary design and features a narrow 2 15/16-inch stile and rail profile for more glass and light. Robust 2 ¼-inch-thick panels provide optimal structural integrity and thermal breaks throughout to increase energy efficiency and thermal performance.

LaCantina’s proprietary core and fascia design allows for a split finish option for both the interior and exterior frame and door panels. This unique design allows the interior color/finish to be a completely different color than the exterior for maximum design fl exibility.

Ventana Garden Windows

Ventana’s Series 2050i impact garden window has Florida Building Code approval for use in High Velocity Hurricane Zones. It meets an ASTM Design Pressure of 50, Missile Impact Level D and Windzone 3 rating.

Ventana USA also says that both its Series 2050 and 2051 garden windows have achieved approval under the current Florida Building Code (FL17444.2) for non-impact applications.

PGT Innovations Impact Products

Florida-based PGT Innovations offers a wide range of products for residential and commercial applications.

These include Sparta impact-resistant windows by CGI Windows and Doors; the new WinGuard Aluminum by PGT Custom Windows + Doors impact-resistant products; the SlimFront (Series 3520 Storefront System) by CGI Commercial Architectural Products; and the Series 8500 BiFold by WinDoor.

Ply Gem 4880 Series Patio Door

Ply Gem’s 4880 Patio Door is ideal for high-end residential and light commercial projects, and it’s available in two-, three- and four-panel sliding and pocket configurations, with thermally insulated construction and high-performance glazing packages.

The product meets new Florida Energy Conservation codes and helps meet requirements of whole-home efficiency pro-grams such as California’s Title 24. The door is also ASTM impact rated and meets most windborne debris protection codes for resistance against severe weather and high winds, especially in coastal regions of the United States.

Integrity Wood-Ultrex Inswing French Door

The Integrity wood-Ultrex inswing French door is avail-able in heights of up to 8 feet. The new door features a durable Ultrex fiberglass exterior to withstand harsh conditions found in coastal regions, including strong winds, driving rain, humidity, salt and sun. In addition, a high-performance upgrade option allows the door to achieve a PG50. The IMPACT IZ3 option, achieving a PG55, provides the impact performance needed to protect coastal residences.

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DWM Magazine

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