Hurricane season is about to peak. Though the season officially started in June, nearly 85% of hurricane formation occurs during August, September and October. Fueled by record-high ocean temperatures, the strength of hurricanes is expected to increase this year, claim meteorologists at Colorado State University.

The meteorologists forecast 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes. The team recently increased its forecast to an “above normal” hurricane season in the Atlantic due to the “extreme anomalous warmth” of sea surface temperatures.

The enhanced forecast will test the strength and effectiveness of door and window systems throughout the Southeast and Eastern Seaboard. However, despite various regional codes that mandate shutters or impact-resistant glass in all openings, obstacles still need to be overcome to adopt hurricane-resistant products for residential buildings. 

“For the consumer, the two biggest hurdles are typically understanding what is required and ensuring the proper specification, receipt and installation of the product as well as understanding the lifetime cost-benefit scenarios between the various types of protection available,” says Julia Schimmelpenningh, architectural industry technical manager for the Advanced Material Interlayers business of Eastman Chemical Company. “For the system supplier, the testing and qualification can be costly and time-consuming as a limited amount of component substitution is allowed.”

Last year, Florida passed a law that added a tax exemption for impact-resistant windows. Jeff Jackson, president and CEO of PGT Innovations, told [DWM] at the time that the law is beneficial for homeowners and manufacturers. The law includes a two-year tax exemption for doors and impact-resistant windows. 

“It not only helps Floridians with the biggest investment they’ll ever have, their homes. We’re also saving lives,” said Jackson. He called the law a win-win for the people of Florida and the government, which will benefit through property tax as homes increase in value. Jackson said the homeowner will recoup that value if a hardened home sells.

Schimmelpenningh explains that there are typically three main types of hurricane-resistant systems that can be installed on homes, including plywood covering, shutters and impact-resistant windows. Impact-resistant windows are commonly used because they remain in place and do not require additional activities pre- and post-storm to close or open the home.

Schimmelpenningh says impact-resistant windows are usually constructed with laminated glass and a bit thicker interlayer than conventional safety glass.

“These laminated glass constructions can be single-unit laminated glass, laminated insulating glass units, double laminated insulating glass units and multi-ply laminates made from multiple layers of glass, interlayers and plastics,” she says.

Before door and window products can be distributed, they must undergo testing. For windows, the process involves glazing the systems with candidate frame extrusions or formed parts and the selected glazing type. The systems are then anchored into mock-ups using the same materials that will be used during installation. The tests cover air, water, structural and security to determine air and water infiltration rates, structural load capacity and forced entry rating, says Schimmelpenningh.

During the tests, the windows are impacted with the appropriately sized lumber at the center and corner of the glass and sometimes at the horizontal or vertical components of the frame.

“Hurricane-resistant systems require rigorous testing inclusive of an impact test and a cyclic test,” says Bob Keller, senior vice president of Product Innovation and Technology for PGT Innovations.

He explains that the primary protocols are broken down to Missile Level C and Missile Level D, based on the weight of the 2×4 used in the test and the speed at which it is fired at the glass.

“Depending on where in Florida the product will be installed, the testing may require either one or three impacts to the glazing,” says Keller.

In addition to the impact test, Keller adds that the cyclic test mimics the positive and negative pressure produced by a hurricane that is applied to a window or door during a storm.

“The cyclic test includes 4,500 cycles in the positive direction, which simulates how a product could be pulled out of a home during a storm,” he says. “It then 4,500 cycles in the negative direction, which simulates how a product could be pushed into a home during a storm. After the testing, there can’t be a substantial tear or hole in the product. Testing impact-resistant products properly is critical, as these products can mean the difference between a home withstanding a hurricane or not. They not only protect buildings and property but save lives.”

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