Florida Building Commission Holds Windborne Debris Region Workshop II

The Florida Building Commission has held the second in a series of workshops to discuss and take public comment on the current statutory restriction of limiting windborne debris protection beyond one-mile landward in the Florida Panhandle. Dick Wilhelm, executive director of the Fenestration Manufacturers Association, was in attendance, and wrote the following update for readers of DWM magazine.

In September 2005 the commission had announced that it would undertake the following in the Panhandle:

  1. Initiate a study specific to the Florida Panhandle geomorphology;
  2. Evaluate specific threats to glazed openings from windborne debris;
  3. Contract with the ARA Inc. (the design group responsible for the wind zone maps in ASCE 7) and the University of Florida to mathematically model the Panhandle region affected by the legislation;
  4. Use wind tunnel testing as part of the modeling study; and
  5. Recommend a cost equal to benefit solution in establishing a windborne debris line.

Rick Dixon, chief of staff for the commission, reported that to date, the wind tunnel testing has been completed at the University of Western Ontario using 1/50th scale models in a treed environment. In addition, ARA has designed the model to evaluate typical residence styles found in the region using various tree concentrations.

However, according to the commission, these studies do not yet provide sufficient information to make a recommendation to the 2006 Florida legislature. Therefore, the commissions' recommendation was to remove the definition of the windborne debris region from the Florida statutes. Members of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives are working on a proposed committee bill to accomplish this in the 2006 session.

If the legislation passes and is signed into law by the governor, the commission will then review information from the ARA/University of Florida study. The commission will enter the rule development mode, hold public workshops and develop the windborne debris line for the Panhandle in time for the 2006 Florida Building Code.

Also at the commission's meeting, Dr. Kurt Gurley, associate professor of civil and coastal engineering at the University of Florida, presented The Wall of Wind - Benefits and Needs Statement. The study details a research effort to aid the State of Florida in prescribing practical, cost effective and science-driven solutions to the problem of severe wind-induced damage to hurricane-prone communities.

The proposed new testing technology, called The Wall of Wind, is already in development, although the establishment of a permanent facility to house the apparatus and develop and test mitigation strategies is still needed to go forward, according to the commission. Proposed experiments for the technology include the evaluation of windows, doors, soffits and shutter systems.

"Overpressure of entry doors was a common source of damage in Hurricane Charley, often leading to the failure of sliding glass doors and allowing the free flow of wind and water through the house," said Dr. Gurley. "Entry doors, sliding glass doors, windows and soffits all failed with regularity. Proposed improvements to these systems should be tested as installed in a facility capable of simulating the true wind behavior.

He continued, "There continues to be a need for a controlled and accurate simulation methodology to water penetration through windows, doors, masonry wall and paths provided by roof cover loss, all of which can be tested in the Wall of Wind."

The participation of several groups in the development of the Wall of Wind project offers the opportunity to leverage the proposed facility upgrades and testing with existing and ongoing funding. Partners include the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, the Institute for Business and Home Safety, the Florida Department of Community Affairs, the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues, Miami-Dade County and the Thornton-Tomasetti Group.

The board of directors of the Fenestration Manufacturers Association (FMA) unanimously approved extending an invitation to the commission for the FMA and its membership to support this undertaking.

The next discussion is scheduled to take place at the Florida Building Commission meeting March 20-22 in Tampa, Fla.

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