Is Your Facade Designed to Weather the Storm Season?

The number of weather and climate disasters in the U.S. from 1980 to 2020 yielded losses exceeding $1.875 trillion. According to the updated data released by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), there were 22 billion-dollar disasters in 2020 alone―the most on record. Tropical cyclones or hurricanes and severe storms accounted for 20 of these weather events. And Colorado State University’s 2021 Hurricane Forecast is predicting yet another busy storm season.

Each severe weather event can result in catastrophic damages to residential, commercial, and industrial property. Much of the impact to buildings in coastal states such as Florida and Texas can be attributed to extreme winds, impact from wind-borne debris, and water penetration. This is especially true for structures in Florida located in the High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) and structures located along Texas’ Gulf Coast in the designated catastrophe area.

So, what does all this talk about weather mean for architects? Planning for the perfect storm starts with a project’s design. Having the appropriate hurricane-resistant fenestration products, including windows, entrances, curtain wall, and storefronts, can limit the damage caused by hurricanes. An assessment conducted by the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) in 2017 revealed that better preparedness and stronger building codes can greatly reduce the level of damage caused by major weather events.

“Hurricane-resistant fenestration products can play a critical role in providing much-needed weather protection to commercial and residential buildings. Understanding and knowledge of the building codes is essential for providing protection against a hurricane,” said Kristin Nolan, director of product support services at Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope. “But understanding of building codes is key, no matter if it’s a new build or RMI.”

Florida’s HVHZ comprises Miami-Dade and Broward counties and has the most stringent hurricane requirements in the country, requiring that building products are laboratory tested to perform under the stress of wind, water, windborne debris, and pressure. Products not only are tested for air infiltration, water infiltration, and structural performance but also must be impacted and cycled 9,000 times to simulate damage from windborne debris and subsequent pressures encountered during a hurricane. For the catastrophe areas along the Texas Gulf Coast, the Texas Department of Insurance requires similar rigorous performance testing to certify to the Texas Windstorm Insurance that structures are insurable against windstorm and hail losses.

When looking for products to specify on your next project, evaluate their impact ratings. Hurricane-resistant fenestration products, such as the newly upgraded StormMax Hurricane-Resistant Storefront series, has to have a glass and framing system that stands up to wind, water, and projectiles. Systems like the StormMax FG-5700, FG-5750, and FG-5750T have been tested to comply with HVHZ protocols for Florida Product Approval (FPA) and TDI criteria for protection from windborne debris. The StormMax system features 12-foot frame heights for taller spans, 2-1/2-inch sightlines, and a broad range of glass infill options giving you the ability to customize the protection you need from glass to anchors to reinforcing and still maintain your desired aesthetic.

In recent years, the hurricane season in the U.S. seems to extend beyond the typical timeframe of June 1 through November 30 and has expanded to other coastal states, such as the Carolinas and New York, which are being increasingly impacted. It is more important than ever to consider hurricane-impact products in areas that may not have traditionally installed them to help protect against potentially catastrophic and costly damage.