Building with Glass in Hurricane Prone Zones

Glazing Assembly Innovations Meet Code Impact Requirements Beautifully

Hurricane season starts this month and the increasing amounts of destruction and monetary damages they cause are alarming. These devastating storms have hit communities starting from the Texas gulf coast and extending to the New England coastal states, as well as in Hawaii and U.S. island territories. Local, state and international building codes have adopted standards that work to ensure the integrity of the building envelope during hurricanes and large storms.

SAFTIFIRST developed the first ever fire and hurricane rated system that meets the highest code standards without the need for expensive shutters or duplicative fire- and impact-safe windows or curtain walls. Designers now have the ability to use one glazing product that enhances aesthetics and natural light while meeting strict codes and insurance limits.

The Destruction That Hurricanes Can Cause

Since 1851, 289 hurricanes have hit 19 of the 50 United States. Of these 289 hurricanes, 40% landed in Florida. Hurricanes and tropical storms also hit places that are not among the first to come to mind, such as Providence, Charleston, Mobile, Norfolk, Honolulu and Houston. In fact, in 2013, weather.com included all of these cities as places that are the “most vulnerable and overdue” for hurricanes.

Four out of five of the costliest U.S. hurricanes landed in this century, and there have been big increases in both the number of people injured or killed and the value of property lost in coastal areas. The top five most destructive hurricanes include:

  • Katrina, 2005, $100 Billion in property damage
  • Sandy, 2012, $65 Billion in property damage
  • Andrew, 1992, $45 Billion in property damage
  • Ike, 2008, $27 Billion in property damage
  • Wilma, 2005, $20 Billion in property damage

Codes Adapt to Protect Buildings From High-Velocity Winds and Wind-Borne Debris

There’s a patchwork of codes and test standards in effect today in hurricane prone regions. Hurricane impact standards for glazing materials were adopted by Florida’s Dade, Broward and Monroe counties in 1992, by the Texas Department of Insurance in 1998 for 14 Texas gulf communities, by the state of Florida in 2001, and by the 2003 edition of the International Building Code. The basis for these standards comes from research on Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin, Australia in 1974, where they found that property damage was a result of wind-borne debris and fluctuating pressures. As a result, hurricane-impact tests cannot be a single gust, but instead must include winds that change directions slowly and carry debris.

Most current U.S. codes and standards require that the building envelope be designed to resist impact from flying debris and cyclic, fluctuating pressures. The various tests and standards go by different names, but share concepts.

  • Large and small missile tests. (ASTM E 1886, ASTM E 1996, TAS 201 (Florida), 2012 IBC section 1609.1.2) In these tests and code sections, a 2 x 4 (large) projectile is thrust onto glazing assemblies that occurs up to 30 feet above grade and small, two-gram steel balls (small) are thrust onto glazing assemblies that occurs between 30-60 feet above grade. Test standards vary based on whether or not the projectiles can penetrate and/or break the glass, and by how much. But, generally products should withstand debris impact, in order to prevent wind from entering a building, building internal pressure and destroying property.
  • Design wind loads. (ASCE 7, IBC Section 1609.1.1, TAS 202 (Florida), TAS 203) Most codes refer to ASCE 7 to define wind speeds and wind load tests in hurricane prone regions along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The 2010 Florida Building Code (FBC) and 2012 IBC reference ASCE 7-10 which now uses an ultimate strength design approach to design wind pressure, and the 2010 FBC wind maps are based on ultimate design wind speeds.

A State-by-State Look at Hurricane Impact Code Requirements

According to the Florida Building Codes, High-Velocity Hurricane Zones (HVHZ) are specifically defined as Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Wind Borne Debris Regions (WBDR) have historically been tied to a specific wind speed based on ultimate design load and risk category. All building envelope projects sold in Florida must be approved by the Florida Product Approval Program.

In Texas, all door and window products sold in 14 designated county coastal catastrophe areas must be hurricane impact tested, certified and labeled. The Texas Department of Insurance offers a product evaluation service.

Texas, New York, Georgia and Hawaii have building codes based on the 2006 IBC. Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia are examples of coastal states that use the 2009 IBC. Under the 2006/2009 IBC Wind-Borne Debris Regions, exterior glazing of doors and windows shall be impact resistant or protected, with large missile protection below 30 feet and small missile protection above 30 feet. Louisiana, Mississippi, Rhode Island and South Carolina are examples of coastal states that have adopted the 2012 IBC, which redefines a Wind-Borne Debris Region more broadly than the 2006 and 2009 versions but maintains that glazing of doors and windows shall be impact resistant or protected.

The 2012 IBC continues the requirement that exterior glazing of doors and windows shall be impact resistant or protected with large missile protection below 30 feet and small missile protection above 30 feet.

Click here for information the SAFTIfire Hurricane system, now with Florida Product Approvals.