Jane Embury, director, looks at high wind loading.
The US city of New Orleans has once again been in the eye of a storm.
This time it was Hurricane Ida, bringing 150mph (240km/h) winds.
While there was significant damage, the city has new flood defences.
Those were constructed after Hurricane Katrina killed 1,800 people in 2005.
It’s an area of the USA that is prone to hurricanes. Last year, Hurricane Laura also battered the coast of Louisiana.
Every year sees named storms hit that part of the world. It’s likely that global warming is partly to blame.
The worst was Katrina in 2005, when some 80% of New Orleans was inundated with water.
They are of course, first and foremost, human tragedies. But where property is involved, it’s also an issue of building resilience.
In some applications, our systems can and do protect against the very worst that weather can throw at us.
In the USA, it was a building debate that really started in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew. Andrew badly hit Florida, killing dozens and causing over $30 billion in damage.
In its wake, there were significant changes to the South Florida Building Codes. Those included new regulations for debris impact, including windows.
The reason, of course, is that flying glass debris is a potent threat to life.
Also, when glass breaks or a window frame fails, the enormous change in air pressure inside a building can cause structural collapse.
Andrew heralded a new hurricane missile testing regime which changed construction practices and building regulations.
Since then, the glass and glazing industry has invested significantly to understand the dynamics of high wind loading and blast pressures.
It’s all about developing glass and framing systems to keep the glazed element intact and in its frame.
As we repeatedly remind customers, our systems are tested as one compatible unit. The simple fact is that if the glass or frame fails, both fail.
In terms of extreme weather, our large-span systems are in place in various parts of the world. For example, at a highly-sensitive banking data hub in Hong Kong, a typhoon area.
Closer to home, they’re also in place at Ocean Terminal, a mixed retail centre in Edinburgh. It’s in a large span configuration that’s believed to still be one of the largest in the UK.
No doubt US federal authorities will again be looking at tightening building and other regulatory codes.
The unstoppable force of a hurricane will always cause damage, but anything that can be done to lessen its impact should be welcomed.
Jane Embury is a director of Wrightstyle