Thursday, June 4, 2015

Is your building product hurricane ready?

by Corey Nigh

As June arrives, weathermen across the nation are making predictions about the upcoming hurricane season. Regardless of their forecast, for those living in hurricane prone areas even a “quiet” season prediction doesn’t quite ease their minds, they’ve learned from experience that it only takes one hurricane to do millions of dollars in damage (ie: think Katrina, Andrew or Sandy). What can ease their concerns is the knowledge that their home or business has been tested or designed for these powerful weather events. While no one fortification can completely ensure a structure will withstand all wind or windborne debris, testing and design can aid in the building’s survival. 

Miami-Dade County has received its share of hurricanes, but Hurricane Andrew devastated the area.  Immediately following Andrew, Florida began to implement building code changes.  Today, Miami-Dade County is a shining example of research and testing that has resulted in some of the most advanced requirements in hurricane protection. The “High Velocity Hurricane Zones” section of the Florida Building Code contains some of the most stringent home defensive measures in the United States today. In fact, the basis for the 2015 IBC Section 1609 that addresses wind load issues for construction is based on the south Florida regulations.

New homes constructed in the hurricane prone areas of Miami-Dade and other south Florida counties are required to meet certain requirements for wind and windborne debris. Building products are certified against these requirements by Miami-Dade County, and the testing must be performed by a Miami-Dade County certified laboratory. ASTM E1886 and ASTM E1996 are the standards that building envelope elements are tested against. For hurricane resistance, these standards describe in detail how to perform wind load and windborne debris testing.

Depending on the product being evaluated, tests other than ASTM E1886 and ASTM E1996 could be required. Individual building products such as adhesives, tile systems, roof membranes and more are also required to undergo a series of rigorous testing. A series of documents, Testing Application Standards (TAS), describes how this testing is to be performed on various building products. Miami-Dade has made their database of product approval checklists  (http://www.miamidade.gov/building/control-forms.asp) and approved products (Miami-Dade Product Control Search) available on their website.

Existing homes also have options available to them that allow them to take advantage of the protection that modern building science offers. Florida has published the Hurricane Retrofit Guide to help homeowners determine how to increase the structural integrity of their homes.  Home improvement projects on existing homes are often chosen based on cost to the homeowner, so the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) has created a Homeowners Guide to Hurricane Retrofit that lists retrofitting projects by cost categories, from least expensive to the most costly.

If your building product is likely to be used in a hurricane zone, for either new construction or as part of a retrofitting project, you need a Miami-Dade Approved Laboratory. NTA is Miami-Dade Certified and currently performs many of the strict tests they require for many types of building products:
  • Miami-Dade impact and wind testing
  • Hurricane testing on doors, curtain walls, windows and shutters
  • Large missile impact
  • Uniform load
  • Air infiltration
  • Water infiltration
  • Cyclic wind pressure

For more information on our Hurricane/Miami-Dade Approved Testing Services, feel free to contact NTA.

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