Deerfield Beach symposium promotes use of impact-resistant windows

Mar 10, 2008

South Florida Sun-Sentinel–Mar. 8, 2008
By Ken Kaye

To give an idea of what a Category 3 hurricane can do to your home, technicians fired a 9-pound, 2-by-4 piece of lumber from an air cannon — simulating a 115-mph wind — into a plain glass window on Friday.

The glass, purchased from an everyday home improvement store, burst into hundreds of pieces and the sound of impact was akin to a gunshot.

"That window’s on sale now," joked James Storms, an architect and project manager with Palm Beach Community College.

The demonstration, part of a symposium to promote the use of impact-resistant windows, was attended by about 90 area architects and builders at the Deerfield Beach Hilton Hotel. It was staged by CGI Windows & Doors of Miami.

The next demonstration featured a piece of timber being hurled into an impact window re-enforced with a hard plastic similar to that used in car windshields. This time, the pane shattered into a spider-web pattern but the wood didn’t break through.

"Nice," commented Charles Schweickert, an architect with the city of Fort Lauderdale.

Schweickert said he recommends homeowners and businesses invest in impact windows rather than shutters as a means to improve fire safety.

He noted that shutters can trap people inside burning homes.

"If you use impact windows, you can still open up the window," he said. "It has better access."

Ruben Bolanos, an architect with Arc Avenue of Hollywood, said it can be difficult to install shutters on second-story or higher windows, while impact windows are permanently installed. He added that window protection also can lower home insurance premiums.

Because Palm Beach Community College has so many buildings, it already has impact windows, Storms said.

To use no window protection at all is risky, considering hurricanes pack raging winds for hours and a home’s windows might be battered numerous times by tree limbs and other debris, Shawn Donovan, a spokesman for CGI, said.