New rules mandate hurrican glass

Hurricane season is here and the Beaufort City Council has reacted with a push to enact tougher, and more expensive, glass requirements for new construction.The State of South Carolina adopted a provision calling for the use of hurricane glass in new construction in July 2002.

A moratorium was put on the provision in hopes that more hurricane resistant glass would be introduced into a limited market, but the city and Beaufort County governments grew tired of waiting.

Last month officials from Beaufort appealed the moratorium in Columbia and on July 1 new glass standards took effect for the city and county.

Building costs are expected to increase as a result of the new requirements, and some contractors have complained, said Beaufort's Director of Codes Enforcement Mike Wiles. But, he added, "Basically what they'll do is pass it along to the consumers."

The glass requirements will help homeowners save on insurance and help the city comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency standards, Wiles said.

There are alternatives, as well. Homeowners are also allowed to install hurricane shutters or cut sheets of plywood to fit each window in a building.

Codes inspectors will make sure the appropriate hurricane resistant glass, shutters or plywood systems are in place before issuing certificates of occupancy for new buildings, Wiles said.

Tim Rentz of Coastal Contractors said the new glass is pricey.

"We're looking at, roughly, four times the cost of each window," he said.

"The most economical way is going to be to install the plywood wherever it's feasible," he added. "If you do the hurricane shutters you might be able to save a little bit of money."

Hurricane glass is "essentially two pieces of glass that are held together by a sort of plastic inner layer," said Cameron Snyder of Anderson Glass. It's designed to hold together under high impact winds, and sustain the blow of a 9-pound two-by-four at a speed of at least 34 mph, he said.

The glass has been popular in Florida said Snyder, particularly in Miami-Dade County after the area was ravaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The price of hurricane glass depends on the manufacturer, grade and window size, said Billy Thrower of Grayco Building Center in Bluffton.

"We've finally got some vinyl manufacturers that are making some impact windows," he said, but even that means an increase in price when compared to regular glass.

Thrower estimates a 2-3 percent increase in building expenses for large homes, and a more significant jump for starter homes. People building starter homes will probably go the shutter or plywood route, he said.

"It does change, maybe, the type of architecture that will be constructed," Thrower added.

There are limits to the size of hurricane resistant glass panels that can be manufactured. Sliding glass doors aren't readily available in hurricane resistant glass, so French doors may become a better option for some people, for example.

600450 New rules mandate hurrican glass
Date: 7 July 2003

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