by Matt Thomas
When Hurricanes Florence and Michael struck North America in 2018, many residents and business owners had to deal with major flooding and destruction. Due to the impact of extreme storms on homes and businesses, architects and builders across the United States are more mindful than ever of the products being used, proper ratings, and what to look for when building and rebuilding.
Even though the Miami-Dade certification, one of the strictest test protocols in North America, requires glass walls to have sufficient ratings for impact resistance and cyclic wind-pressure loading, storms such as Maria, Harvey, and Irma can still create devastation across North America. As glass wall systems become a staple in architectural design, it is important to recognize Miami-Dade compliance is only the starting point. On its own, it will not hold up against superstorms. For safety, security, and longevity, more is needed.
As architects and owners are rebuilding in hurricane zones, here are six key features to look for in glass wall systems to ensure performance is above and beyond Miami-Dade ratings.
Reinforced structural posts
It is important to look for a folding glass wall system with reinforced vertical posts (or astragals) down each panel side for added performance. This design means glass walls pivot on and are hinged to either side of the vertical post instead of pivoting with rollers with ball bearings. The post itself should have stainless steel wheels connected to a track—just like the wheels of a train—that can run along the track without pivoting. These reinforced vertical structural posts provide incredible strength against high winds and water blowing against the system.
A floor-supported system
Many glass wall systems are hung from a top support and only use a floor rail to guide the panels’ path, but heavy, moveable panels require an incredibly strong header. If not, the glass walls are more susceptible to high winds. Floor-supported systems, on the other hand, use gravity to their advantage with all of the weight supported on the floor. This extra stability enables the glass wall system to withstand hurricane-force winds.