In 2019, the Structural Technical Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Florida Building Commission, formed the Fenestration Water Resistance Workgroup to evaluate the Florida Building Code requirements relating to design and testing of exterior envelope and fenestration in high-rise buildings.
In the past year, the Workgroup has met several times, with some members advocating for radical changes to the way fenestration products are rated for water penetration resistance. They have stated that a building should be completely leak-free during hurricanes and tropical storms and that fenestration systems are a major source of water leakage during these storms.
Fenestration products in the R, LC and CW performance classes are typically tested at pressures equal to 15 percent of their structural design pressure. AW products are tested at 20 percent of the structural design pressure. Some members of the Workgroup would like to see these requirements increased to pressures equal to 50 percent of structural design pressure (or higher). AAMA, along with the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the Fenestration Manufacturers Association (FMA), have opposed these recommendations.
One of the major objections to increasing water test pressure requirements put forward by the fenestration industry is that the actual source of water penetration experienced during Hurricane Irma has never been established.
Buildings that had reported water leakage during the storm did not undergo a forensic evaluation to determine the source of the water leakage. Therefore, recommendations to increase water test pressure requirements for fenestration products are premature.
To determine potential weak points in building envelope design, the University of Florida (UF) Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment (ESSIE) proposed a research study in July. Several issues with the study were identified by AAMA, WDMA, FMA and other interested parties. Two attempts to secure funding for the proposed study from the Florida Building Commission have been made.
However, the Commission has acknowledged the fenestration industry’s concerns with the proposed scope and has directed the UF team to conduct a feasibility study to determine if this research proposal can be transformed into a project that will yield viable data that can be used to improve the design of buildings located in hurricane-prone regions. The Commission also directed UF to include the fenestration and building envelope industries in the development of the scope. The scope of the feasibility study will be presented at the December 12 meeting of the Florida Building Commission in St. Augustine, FL.
AAMA is monitoring the potential study closely and will represent members at the Florida Building Commission meeting in December.