12/08/2014 02:54 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2015

Designing for Disaster: How Architectural Details Help Keep the Roof Over Your Family Sheltered from a Storm

When designing a house, architects and their clients often talk about hopes and dreams of the style, size, and ambience of the house they will ultimately call home. Seldom discussed, but always on the mind of the designer, is how to design a home that will withstand as much harsh treatment as Mother Nature can dish out. Thanks to product innovations that have entered the market over the past few years, these design considerations are built in to many products available today. And in some parts of the country, have already proven their worth.

No region of the country is immune to storms. Whatever form they come in - tropical storms, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms - it's critical to take proactive steps to minimize or prevent storm damage to a home.

At What Cost?

According to insurance experts, the average repair cost after a major storm is $6,500. Physical damage is not the only consideration when measuring the true cost of weathering a storm. There's also an interruption of daily life that comes with the damage and adds to the overall cost of recovering from a storm.

The Envelope, Please

When it comes to designing a home to mitigate damage from a disaster, builders and architects focus on the building envelope of a home: roof, walls, windows, and doors. The building envelope is the first line of defense against storm damage, and windows are both the most critical and most vulnerable points in maintaining the building envelope during a storm.

To illustrate the typical progression of storm damage, think of a house as a balloon. A door blown open or window broken during a storm releases pressure, having the same effect as poking a pin in a balloon. As the interior and exterior pressure balances, more windows break, the roof blows off... and the interior is exposed to more storm debris, high winds and water damage. The result is often a home splintered and scattered across the surrounding area.

Strengthening the First Line of Defense

Understanding how a building envelope works, and where its weaknesses lie, is nothing new. Think back to news coverage of hurricane seasons over the years, and you've probably seen pictures or footage of homeowners taping windowpanes, attaching plywood covers or installing corrugated metal shutters. The problem is none of these methods are consistently reliable. Such measures can fail at the peak of a storm's fury, failing to protect a home when it's needed the most.

In recent years, window technologies have been developed with a built-in passive system offering protection 24/7 with no additional preparation needed to brace against a storm. One example of this technology is Stormwatch protection, an innovation from Andersen Windows that employs an impact system consisting of sash and frame reinforcements, and impact-resistant glass. Windows and doors with Stormwatch protection work as a system, but a key component is the glass, which consists of two pieces of glass laminated together with a flexible membrane between. Stormwatch windows are on guard 24/7 and do not require shutters or removable storm panels to successfully protect a home.

Beyond the Test Lab

Products with Stormwatch protection were put to task in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore and became the second-costliest storm in U.S. history at $71.4 billion. Many of the architects and builders who specified and installed Andersen® products with Stormwatch protection in the New Jersey area learned first-hand how the products performed, as one architect shares in this video.

Building codes requiring impact resistant window and door products continue to increase in communities along coastal areas. Thanks to design innovations that are introduced year after year, architects and builders are more confident in their ability to design a home that is not just a haven, but a true shelter from the storm.

See your local code official for building code requirements in your area. Product performance varies by product. Visit for more information.