“Mother Nature Says”

Learn More About Resilience

By Michael Collins

Door and window manufacturers are phenomenal at designing and manufacturing products that can withstand hurricanes and other natural disasters. Increasingly, though, those same products are being called upon to help homeowners in the weeks and months after an event. These expectations come together in a homebuilding movement labeled “resilience.”

The Resilient Design Institute defines resilient homes as those that will withstand severe storms, flooding, wildfire and other natural occurrences. Resilient homes also can be lived in for extended periods after a severe storm, despite the lack of electrical power or heating fuel (for example, by being able to open windows). To meet those expectations, homes feature details like rain screens, hurricane-rated windows and interior finish materials that can dry out if they get wet, thus not requiring replacement. Resilient homes also have building envelopes that are so energy efficient residents can live comfortably using minimal back-up power systems. Windows with high R-values and tight seals are examples of what makes up those abilities.

It’s About Mitigation

Expect the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to push resilience more and more, if only because spending money beforehand ultimately is cheaper than paying to clean up damage after. Meanwhile, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 was the most expensive year on record for weather and climate disasters in the U.S., with damages totaling $306.2 billion.

DHS cares about resilience, in part, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are among its agencies. FEMA’s website cites a National Institute of Building Sciences report from last year that concluded that for every dollar the nation spends, in general, on mitigating hazards, it saves six dollars in future costs. Additionally, every dollar spent by local communities and homeowners can save the nation four dollars in recovery costs.

And Then There’s Insurers

Federal agencies aren’t the only ones backing these efforts. The Insurance Institute for Business Home and Safety (IBHS) has launched a Fortified Homes certification program, which calls for the use of engineering and building standards that can strengthen new and existing homes. As with FEMA, what’s involved goes beyond minimum building code requirements. For instance, the IBHS technical guide for building fortified homes in hurricane-prone areas calls for all window, exterior door and sky-light openings to be protected with opening protection systems that pass an ASTM E 1996 and E 1886 impact tests for larger (“D” sized) missiles. In addition, the minimal design uplift pressure must be greater than or equal to 110 pounds per square foot (PSF) for homes in those same areas (proof test of at least 165 psf ) and 80 psf for homes in high wind or hail-prone areas (proof test of at least 120 psf ). Most of the IBHS rules for doors in fortified homes concern garage doors.

Meanwhile, the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code, first printed in August 2017, focuses on building resilience in fire-prone areas. Its regulations calling for exterior glazing say that, “Exterior windows, window walls and glazed doors, windows within exterior doors, and skylights shall be tempered glass, multilayered glazing panels, glass block or have a fire protection rating of not less than 20 minutes.” As for exterior doors, the code requires those products to be approved noncombustible construction. That means solid-core, wood doors cannot be less than 1-3/4 inches thick, and that all doors must have a fire protection rating of no less than 20 minutes. Windows within doors and glazed doors need to follow the same rules as for exterior glazing.

Whether you attribute the trend toward more disastrous weather to global warming, or simply to normal statistical variations in weather patterns, there appears to be an increase in the recent past in the occurrence of severe events. And for this reason, manufacturers that get out ahead of this trend stand to benefit from delivering product solutions that are truly resilient against the often unkind elements of mother nature.

Michael Collins is an investment banker and a partner in Building Industry Advisors. He specializes in mergers and acquisitions in the door and window industry.

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DWM Magazine

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