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Hurricane aftermath show building codes for glass are doing the job

Courtesy of PGT Innovations.

The wrath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — and now Maria — means disruptions in new construction. But it also means opportunities to assess earlier construction.

As Glass Magazine reports, early assessments of Irma damage show that buildings that followed more stringent code requirements — including those for impact glazing — better secured newly built homes and buildings.

“The current requirements for impact resistant glazing are a direct result of the destruction brought on by Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago,” Julie Ruth, owner of JRuth Code Consulting in Clayton, Mo., told the magazine.

A recent Wall Street Journal article quotes research from a professor at Austin College in Sherman, Tex. who found that building code reduced windstorm losses by up to 72 percent and that there were $6 in losses saved for every $1 of additional construction costs. The Journal quotes a local builder in the Naples area who said his two-story house, which meets the new stringent standards as it was built in 2003, was unscratched during Irma. By contrast, the storm uprooted a large oak tree just outside his door.

“The newer construction really stood up to the winds,” he said.

One reason why the newer buildings fared better is because Florida has one of the strongest building codes in the U.S. Passed statewide in 2002, the new code requires new construction to have impact-resistant windows, among other requirements, such as stronger fasteners that prevent roofs from blowing away.

However, before Irma, the state’s building codes became vulnerable. Earlier this year the state passed a bill that gives the Florida Building Commission flexibility to evaluate whether or not to make code changes to keep up with technological advancement. The bill also removed a requirement that it adopt International Code Council standards every three years. Critics say the changes will weaken standards that were put in place in 2002.

Florida glass and windows manufacturer PGT Innovations reported that its facilities were also unharmed during Irma. But Dean Ruark, director of product management, told Glass Magazine that it may be too early to determine how codes helped local glazing perform.

“Hurricane Irma was a true test of impact glazing codes in the most heavily impacted areas, like the Florida Keys and Marco Island,” he said. “We can use this event to understand how buildings performed in the current code cycle to ensure we are putting the right efforts into future building. In areas more severely impacted, we can use the post-storm evaluation to drive code changes or enforcement, to ensure that our buildings adhere to the current code.”

PGTI President Jeff Jackson said that the glass industry “must learn from these storms and then innovate even better products that will allow us to build even more resilient buildings and stronger homes for our families, friends and neighbors.”

If you are in Florida, how did your home hold up? Did you find that code helped protect your house or building? Let us know in the comments below.

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