Keeping the Storm Out: Windstorm Door Opening Solutions

Whether it's a tornado or a hurricane, the primary objective is always the same: keeping the storm out of the building, and keeping the building and the people inside it safe from nature’s harshest elements.


Hurricanes and tornadoes have been wreaking their havoc in the United States since long before the states became united. But it’s relatively recent that strict codes have been established and window and door products tested and improved to help protect buildings and the people sheltered within them.

Today’s national hurricane codes provide guidelines for window and door opening solutions used in the construction of all buildings in hurricane-zone states, with individual states having some leeway to fine-tune their guidelines. The states utilizing hurricane codes include all those that touch the waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Florida) and all states along the eastern seaboard (from Florida to Maine).

Hurricane codes are designed to secure every exterior opening and maintain safe interior pressure – to make sure that every exterior opening can remain secure during a storm and keep wind, rain and debris from penetrating the envelope of the building. The codes cover a complete range of doors, windows and exterior components. For example, some of the Yale Locks and Hardware components offered as windstorm solutions include: square bolt panic bars, exit devices, 8800 mortise locks, 5300 and 5400 cylindrical locks, electrified mortise and cylindrical locks, and a number of different latches.

 

Andrew Brings New Windstorm Codes

The major turning point in the development of hurricane codes was Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. The storm caused at least 40 deaths, directly or indirectly, and $30 billion in property damage. It was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history at that time.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew’s destruction, insurance companies threatened to drop coverage of storm-prone areas unless more stringent building codes were developed to prevent similar disasters. Building and construction experts sifted through the rubble to determine why some structures were obliterated by the high winds, while others remained intact. This follow-up investigation, coupled with existing wind engineering data, provided the basis for a new set of windstorm codes and testing standards that were adopted into the International Building Code. These codes are based on the ASCE-7 standards and emphasize protection of the building envelope by requiring components, including doors and hardware that have passed a rigorous set of testing requirements.

 

Changing Building Code Requirements

Since the nineties, hurricane codes have continually evolved, and building code requirements have been established, with global organizations like the International Code Council (ICC) revisiting existing safe construction standards and proposing new standards every three years. Individual states in hurricane zones can adopt their own guidelines for the construction and functionality of door and window products.

For years in the state of Florida, hardware and doors had to be tested together and meet safety standards as assemblies. Components could not be interchanged.

Today, swinging door assembly components Florida have to meet ANSI a250.13 testing standard, as established by members of the Steel Door Institute and Builders Hardware Manufacturers’ Association. This standard for “severe windstorm resistant components” allows components to be paired with different doors.

 

Tornado Codes

It was not until 2008 that new code requirements were established for the manufacture of tornado specialty hardware. This change followed with the Kansas tornado outbreak during the summer of 2007 (with sustained winds exceeding 200 mph).

After this tornado onslaught, the communities in this area put tornado shelters in all of their schools, so there was a serious need for hardware that could be used every day for classroom doors that would double as shelter doors. The combination of the tragic event and subsequent need led to new national standard for tornado shelter, such as the ICC 500 2008 Standard for the Design and construction of Storm Shelters.

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