Hurricane Protection: Current and Emerging Technology
The science of hurricane protection has evolved significantly over the past decade, fueled by an intensely destructive period of hurricane activity. The decade of 1996 to 2005 was the one of the most destructive decades in the last century with total hurricane damage of $198 billion. So devastating in fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have even changed the way they track hurricanes in order to establish baseline hurricane wind zones and prioritize building code revision reviews for the International Code Council. Hurricane Protection technology is more than individual product improvement, its an entire industry focus on our homes, buildings and infrastructure.
Another factor driving the advancement of hurricane protection technologies was the 2000 International Residential and Commercial Building Codes, which for the first time required the use of impact-resistant windows, doors and other components for homes built in hurricane-prone areas. Subsequent editions of the International Building Codes are adopted every 3 years, each with specific references to improved hurricane protection standards and emerging hurricane protection technology.
Building Envelope Advances
A key focus of the modern building code is the exterior of the building, also known as the building envelope. The building envelope is the physical separator between the interior and exterior of a building. Components of the envelope are typically: walls, floors, roofs, fenestrations and doors. Fenestrations are any opening in the structure: windows, skylights, clerestories, etc.
Hurricane Protection Codes
New homes built in Florida within an area where 120 mph winds or greater are expected must have exterior impact protection. Examples of impact protection include impact-resistant windows, hurricane shutters and reinforced doors. Other code changes for 120 mph wind zones include mandatory roof straps that connect the roof of a home through cables all the way to a basement or concrete slab. The building code community is now looking more closely at energy codes and how they interact with building codes to ensure that homes built in the future can provide energy efficiency and impact protection at the same time.
While the development of the modern building code has progressed, millions of homes and commercial buildings in the U.S. were built before the adoption of modern building codes, placing them at great risk for hurricane damage. Technologies exist today to allow older buildings to be retrofitted to become more hurricane resistant. These hurricane protection technology driven advances include reinforcing gabled roofs, creating secondary water barriers in roofs, and installing hurricane straps and clips to ensure a roof stays in place despite high winds.
Hurricane Protection Retrofit
Product improvements specific to retrofit are advancing to make retrofitting to code easier for the homeowner. Innovations such as the current development of a new bracket for roof systems will allow roofers to install hurricane-resistant roof clips on trusses without the hassle or expense of having to bring in a separate building contractor to oversee installation, which currently requires removal of the existing plywood. Instead this product will allow the roofer to install the brackets directly through the existing plywood saving time and money.
Water Intrusion Reduction
Water intrusion has continued to be a problem for even many code approved opening protection technologies. New products are being developed that address the serious water intrusion issue as code bodies consider more stringent requirements for minimizing water intrusion during a hurricane. For example, a new window with an integrated “inside” shade system that significantly reduces the risk of water intrusion and provides the convenience to the homeowner of securing hurricane protection from inside the home, has been recently approved by the Florida Building Code. This system relies on a rigid frame, standard glass, and an integrated high-impact synthetic shade that, when deployed from the inside of the building, locks into place. If the window’s glass is broken during a storm, the patented system will continue to prevent wind, water and airborne debris from entering the building, even with repeated impact.
Hurricane Panels and Rolling Shutters provide even greater protection by adding a buffer between the weather elements and the glass. This also gives the addition benefit of thermal protection. The integration of Hurricane Storm Panel systems provide a balance of sight to the outdoors and defense of wind over the 120mph Florida Building Code mandate. Although they don’t provide the thermal protection of Rolling Shutters, they do resist against wind driven rain, high winds, and flying debris.
Rolling Shutters are multifunctional and encompass several additional features. Unlike Hurricane Storm Panels and Hurricane Storm Fabric solutions, Rolling Shutters do not require set-up times or storage when not in use. Rolling Shutters are designed to remain in place year-round and can be outfitted with motor units. The user can lower the hurricane shutters when needed for storm protection, sun control, and energy savings.