Hurricane Florence has dominated headlines this week and last, as the powerful storm brought a major surge and heavy rains to the Carolinas and beyond. With significant flooding affecting the areas, recovery crews have their work cut out for them.
While the weather activity along the coast is serious, it still doesn’t compare to the Atlantic hurricane season of 2017. Remember last year? Those who weathered it certainly do. It brought the major storms Harvey, Irma and Maria. Experts described it as “hyperactive.” And it was the costliest season on record, totaling $282.16 billion in damage. As for 2018, forecasters have predicted below-average activity, which could be reason for those on the coasts to breathe a sigh of relief. Plus, one might be inclined to think that homeowners in hurricane-prone areas have made some of the necessary upgrades after a historically damaging season.
Think again. A study released in May found that over half of Florida homeowners have not made any hurricane preparations for the upcoming season. Thirty percent of homeowners have stocked up on emergency supplies, but the percentage of those who’ve made structural improvements is much lower, according to the report. For instance, just 18 percent of those surveyed have made the investment in impact-resistant windows, and 13 percent have made the investment in impact-resistant doors.
But this could be a trend that is in the beginning of an upswing. Research firm Freedonia Group forecasted last year (in the midst of the 2017 segment) that hurricane impact windows represent a “small but quickly expanding segment of the overall fenestration market,” with demand to increase 7.5 percent annually through 2021. That rate is attributable to new construction activity that must meet the stringent Florida Building Code and increasing consumer awareness about the benefits of hurricane-proofing into the future.
I think it’s an area of opportunity that window and door manufacturers should be exploring. People all over the Gulf Coast are still rebuilding after last year’s season, and while predictions for 2018 are currently modest, you never know. The 2017 season started off with forecasted lower activity, too. And it’s been shown that stricter building codes, requiring these impact-resistant windows, doors and other materials, work. Homes and buildings fare better when higher-performance materials are used in construction.
Our industry can do some advocacy in the markets where people stand to benefit from hurricane-rated windows and doors. It can be a growth area for companies that haven’t explored this niche previously, and an opportunity to expand for those that already have. And we can continue to promote the use of high-performing materials and components to get these finished products into homes—before a storm makes replacement a necessity.