The state of Florida has been the driving force behind the invention of high impact windows. These windows, as the name suggests, can withstand high wind force like storm and hurricane while offering complete protection to the building as well as the inhabitants. Prior to the invention of high impact windows, ordinary glass was the window glazing material for all types of windows in both residential and commercial buildings. The glass was fragile and vulnerable to breakage and damage when hit by strong winds and caused extensive damage to life and property when hurricanes and tornadoes struck. The devastation was at its heights when Hurricane Andrew, a powerful and destructive Category 5 Atlantic hurricane hit Florida, Louisiana, and the Bahamas in August 1992. Till that time it was the most destructive hurricane that hit Florida that caused 65 deaths until Hurricane Irma surpassed it in 2007.
The way to discovery
The dangers of glass breakage during a storm is most felt due to the glass shards that spread all over and cause extensive injuries that can be very damaging and even life-threatening. In the wake of the widespread destruction and damage caused by Hurricane Andrew, the state of Florida immediately came forward to develop and implement building codes regarding hurricanes. Miami-Dade municipalities were the first to implement stricter building codes, and this led to Florida Building Code standards of 2001 adopted by the entire state. Taking the lead from Florida, soon other hurricane-prone states upgraded the building codes and made it a standard. It resulted in the development of a standard to test and grade impact windows for reliability and safety to withstand hurricane-force winds and flying debris. This paved the way for manufacturing impact windows like the BSC impact windows which have now become a norm.
Laminated glass or safety glass
The building codes recommended the use of stronger and high impact resistant glass for windows like the laminated glass used for windshields in automobiles made from safety glass. Laminated glass or safety glass is different from ordinary glass not only because it is stronger and can withstand the high impact force when hit by an object but even if it breaks it stays in place without dispersing. This results in the glass remaining within the frame and the damage is visible only in the form of numerous cracks like the spider’s web. The bonding of the glass remains intact even after breaking due to the use of an interlayer of Ethylene Vinyl Acetate or EVA or PVB (Polyvinyl Butyral) between the layers of glass that imparts high strength to the composite material and prevents the glass from breaking into sharp pieces.
Stronger window systems
To protect property and lives from the damages caused by breaking glass during hurricanes, the window industry perceived the use of safety glass on windows to create stronger window systems. They depended on studies that showed that if it is possible to keep the exterior envelope intake during hurricane and storm, it improves the chances of holding the roof of the building in place and reduce the resultant damage. And it became obvious that the use of safety glass was the only solution. The automobile industry provided the inspiration for the window industry that lost no time in using safety glass for creating high impact windows that have now become quite common. The window industry went a step ahead in the use of safety glass by ensuring that there is minimal dispersal of shards of glass by preventing it from flying, keeping the window system intact and prevent blow out of the building.
The choice of the interlayer
The use of interlayer imparts all the safety properties to ordinary glass besides strengthening it to prevent breakage during impact. What type of interlayer would be best depends on the window design like the size of panels and design pressure as well as the location, which are also factors that determine the thickness. For example, for level C glazed areas, the standard recommendation is 0.060-in PVB interlayer. Level D glazed areas require much higher impact resistance for which more structural and stiffer interlayer having 0.090 thickness provides the necessary resistance to tearing.
The geographical location of your home determines the kind of protection needed and influences the choice of high impact safety windows that would be right for the situation. The local building codes provide enough direction in selecting the right kind of safety glass. However, you can impart the necessary properties to safety glass in the way you want to make it even stronger to meet specific needs.
Benefits of impact windows
More than hurricane resistance, safety glass serves many other purposes, and its use spreads even beyond hurricane-prone areas. Since the windows have high impact resistance, it improves the safety of homes by preventing intrusion and helps in noise reduction.
- Burglars are simply unable to break through impact windows because even if they damage the glass, it does not provide the opening through which they can enter the building.
- Children can safely play beside large picture windows because parents know well that the glass will never fall into pieces that can harm children.
- The interlayer creates insulation that cuts off outside noise and helps to maintain calm interiors. Even at the time of thunderstorms or damaging winds, the building remains completely safe as there is no fear of window damage.
It is not only that hurricanes and tornadoes damage homes but even normal thunderstorms can be dangerous but having impact windows installed; homeowners can have complete peace of mind that no damage can happen to the windows.
Impact windows have made a permanent place in the window industry that would evolve with time to meet more stiff challenges and live up to the expectations of homeowners by matching new designs and styles. The ability of the windows to add safety to homes gives enough encouragement to invest with the assurance of the right return on investment. The assurance that you get about protecting your family is just too much to give a second thought about installing impact windows.