Shelter from the Storm

Hurricane-resistant windows and doors
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Sponsored by Graham Architectural Products
By Amanda C. Voss, MPP

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain the more stringent standards criteria that hurricane-resistant windows and doors must satisfy.
  2. Identify the regions across the United States where hurricane-resistant products are required.
  3. Discuss the components that go into a hurricane-resistant window and help it to meet safety requirements.
  4. Specify hurricane-resistant windows and doors, and understand the types of hurricane-resistant window ratings driven by building design.
  5. Incorporate special design and aesthetics into hurricane-resistant windows, including historical replication.


AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.
This course can be self-reported to the NSAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia
This test is no longer available for credit

It struck with unexpected intensity the morning of August 24, 1992. Elliott Key was the first to feel its wrath; some 25 minutes later, Homestead, Florida, was in the bull’s-eye.

Hurricane Andrew’s August rampage in 1992 would become the costliest natural disaster in United States history to that date, and today it’s surpassed only by totals from Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Sandy (2012), and Hurricane Ike (2008). In all, the damage caused by Andrew in South Florida and Louisiana totaled $26 billion. Sixty-five deaths were attributed to the storm, while around 150,000 to 250,000 people in South Florida were left homeless. Approximately 600,000 homes and businesses were destroyed or severely impaired by the winds, waves, and rain. Communications and transportation infrastructures were significantly impaired, and there was tremendous loss of power and utilities, water, and other essentials.

Photo of The Conservatory at Hammock Beach.

Photo courtesy of Graham Architectural Products

Project: The Conservatory at Hammock Beach
Projects requiring hurricane-resistant windows and doors no longer have to compromise on aesthetics.

The Fallout from Hurricane Andrew

The lives lost and billions of dollars in damages served as a wake-up call for the construction industry.

Wind zone levels were not adequate, the existing standards were not being adhered to, and codes were not being enforced. As a result, missile impact test standards were developed and more stringent building codes have been put in place that are now enforced.

The damage and devastation brought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, both physically and financially, spurred the industry to reevaluate building codes. In the many areas of the United States impacted by tropical storms and hurricanes, revised codes and standards became the key to better emergency preparedness.

Left: A building before Hurricane Andrew. Right: The building after Hurricane Andrew.

Photos courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory/Solar Outdoor Lighting

These photos were taken before and after Hurricane Andrew. The destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew ushered in major changes to building codes all along the U.S. eastern seaboard and set the performance bar for hurricane-resistant products.

Anatomy of a Disaster

“Hurricanes form both in the Atlantic basin to the east of the continental United States (that is, in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea) and in the Northeast Pacific basin to the west of the United States,” writes Chris W. Landsea, researcher at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami. “The hurricanes in the Northeast Pacific almost never hit the United States, however, whereas the ones in the Atlantic basin strike the U.S. mainland just less than twice a year on average.”

Close to seven hurricanes every four years strike the United States, while about three major hurricanes cross the U.S. coast every five years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The top 10 costliest hurricanes have all occurred since 1992, with the top three occurring within the past 12 years. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the costliest natural disaster as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, with damages over $108 billion. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 ranks second with $65 billion, and Hurricane Ike in 2008 narrowly surpassed the damages from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, with total losses at $29.5 billion.

While 40 percent of all U.S. hurricanes hit Florida and 88 percent of major hurricane strikes hit either Florida or Texas, hurricanes have impacted states as far north as Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts (NOAA).

Hurricanes are classified on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, based on sustained wind speeds and damage caused. Categories begin at One, the least severe event, and go up to Five, the most severe.

  • Category One: 74 to 95 mph
  • Category Two: 96 to 110 mph
  • Category Three: 111 to 130 mph
  • Category Four: 131 to 155 mph
  • Category Five: Greater than 155 mph


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in May 2017