The Changing Face of Hurricane Protection
By Keith Foster, Condo Owner Magazine, June 15, 2013
As the condo market continues to improve, many condo owners are now turning their attention to renovating and improving units for the long term. Protecting the unit and its contents from future storm damage is an increasingly important topic. In the last five years, a number of new systems have been developed to protect the windows and doors from wind, wind-driven rain and flying debris from our frequent Gulf storms. Additionally, many traditional types of hurricane shutters have undergone radical transformations, increasing performance and greatly improving aesthetics.
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary improvements is a technology introduced recently by QMI, Inc., parent company of Roll-a-way. Roll-up shutters have long been considered one of the best forms of storm protection against all storm forces that a condo faces, particularly wind-driven rain. The main objection to these products has been the sometimes bulky appearance of the hood (slat storage box) on top of the shutter. The QMI Qompact system reduces the size of this hood – sometimes by as much as half the size of a conventional roll-up shutter. As an example, a traditional roll-up shutter that is 9 ft tall (typical for a condo balcony) often will require a hood 12” in height. The Qompact system allows this same shutter to fit into a 6.5” hood. Also, due to improvements in the strength of slat attachments and the side tracks, this shutter can span greater widths without the need for purlins (intermediate storm bars). The result is a shutter that better blends into the condo architecture and is less visible from the exterior. The Qompact system can be deployed with electric motors, a gear crank, or (uniquely) with manual spring-assisted pull-down operation.
Another recent innovation in general hurricane protection is the use of high burst strength fabrics made from engineered polymeric materials. These fabrics, made from nylon, PVC or PE/PP have been in use for some time. Recently, however, shutter manufacturers have discovered innovative ways to deploy these materials in ways that can be usable in the condo environment.
One such system is the Stormcatcher Rolling Screen made by Storm Smart Industries. Made for enclosing large areas such as lanais and balconies, the Stormcatcher Rolling Screen is most effectively used to enclose condominium balconies. These systems can be manufactured with either motor drives or manual gear cranks. Its cost is roughly 1/3 lower than traditional roll-up shutters; however, it is critical that this product be installed correctly for proper storm performance.
Regardless of the system chosen by a condo HOA, it is imperative that the products selected for use are tested according to accepted test norms such as the ASTM E1886 / 1996 standards required by the Florida Building Code. It is equally important that the products are installed by licensed contractors who follow the appropriate engineering directives and have significant experience in the condominium environment.
Keith Foster is co-owner and VP, Sales & Marketing for Distinctive Products, Inc, a general contractor specializing in storm protection headquartered in Gulf Shores and licensed in AL, FL & MS. Keith is responsible for the sales, marketing, code compliance and product design of hurricane shutters, especially for the condo market.
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