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Wind Pressure on Skylights: The Dangers and Defenses

December 2, 2020

To build a breed of skylights that offer surefire integrity and decades-long performance, the glass panels used in their design—and the way they are installed—must be carefully considered.

That’s not only to prevent breakage caused by accidental collisions, falls, foul balls, and any other unexpected impacts, but because wind pressure is the primary source of structural strain that doors and windows experience. Meaning at the end of the day, no matter how firmly a skylight’s frame is affixed, inadequate paneling can easily incur more wind force than a skylight’ s design allows—causing them to fall apart.

Since the pressure of uplift during high winds and hurricanes is a very real hazard for structures, modern building codes from around the world have been established to keep people protected from the stormy dangers of broken glass and flying debris. Not to mention the deteriorative effects that cumulative uplift pressure leads to over time.

To ensure that these codes are maintained without fail, modern solid-state skylights are built with these international rulesets in mind and tested to surpass those standards for superior property protection no matter where they are used.

But before we get into how those resilient designs successfully shield properties from wind pressure, let’s look at why windborne uplifts can be so damaging.

What is Wind Uplift?

Wind uplift is an effect that takes place when the air pressure acting on an area below a roofing system (such as a ceiling-mounted skylight cluster) becomes greater than the air pressure above it.

When this occurs the pressure overhead decreases, which in turn causes the air that’s there to seep down into rooftop materials wherever it can. That means any cracks, openings, or fastenings will find themselves filled with internal pressure that wants to expand outward from inside the roof.

If this effect comes on heavily all at once, such as during a hurricane, that could mean immediate destruction. If this effect comes on slowly, it means a roof deck’s material will gradually separate and have its structural integrity weakened over time.

Some notable factors on wind uplift include a building’s height, as taller buildings experience stronger rooftop wind velocities, regional wind conditions, natural terrain and other buildings near a structure, and the number of openings implemented into a building’s design.

Wind Pressure Codes that Keep People Safe

There are many different legal guidelines on structural safety out there, but when it comes to concerns regarding wind pressure, there are two codes in particular that stand out as leading industry standards for the construction of rooftops and skylights throughout the globe.

  • Miami-Dade code

The Miami-Dade code maintains some of the highest wind-protection standards you will find in the United States and beyond. Created after the havoc left in the wake of Hurricane Andrew back in 1992, the whole of Florida now applies the current version of this code to all building products in the state—along with a slew of other states and foreign nations who experience wind storms regularly.

  • IRC, International Residential Code

Created specifically for family dwellings, the International Residential Code (IRC) concerns the construction of one-to-three story structures across international communities of all kinds. From suburban residences to country townhouses, within the U.S. this code is used across 49 states, as well as in Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island territories, and the District of Columbia. To ensure that structural integrity and protections against the elements remain adequate over time, the IRC also makes sure to account for new building materials and models as they emerge.

Solid State Skylights make Wind Pressure no Problem

From all the attention given to mitigating just wind damage alone, it is obvious that a good amount of thought, time, and energy goes into making skylights safer to use.

But thanks to all that effort new innovative manufacturing methods for skylighting have recently emerged, and largely, they make old wind pressure problems a thing of the past. That’s because today’s reacting injection molding (RIM) techniques now chemically connect the glass panels of skylights within highly durable frames—creating seamless single-piece designs that offer unprecedented levels of protection.

This is achieved by bonding polyurethane material and ballistic grade glass into combined solid-state skylights. As there are no removable parts or additional fastenings involved, uplift prone installation components are completely avoided via this method. By the end of the process, the resulting solid-state skylights are capable of withstanding trauma and wind conditions far fiercer than any other models on today’s market.

After they’re in place, and as an added bonus, these skylights operate so long and carry such little potential for failure that their providers are able to offer impressive transferable warranties that covers up to 20-years of their use.

Sourcing Wind-Pressure Protected Skylights

Skylights are a fantastic natural lighting solution that enhance much more than just a building’s aesthetic, and with the availability of today’s solid-state models, no wind pressure concerns should stand as a deterrent from them.

Feel free to learn more about the incredible protective qualities of commercial and residential solid-state skylights here, or get in touch with us at Vtech directly so we can find the solid-state skylighting solution that best fits your property right away.

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