Coastal Building Regulations: Hurricane Screens Explained

Understanding the nuances of coastal building regulations can be a complex task, particularly when it comes to the implementation of hurricane screens. These protective measures are crucial for safeguarding properties against the destructive forces of hurricanes, and as such, they are a key focus within building codes in hurricane-prone areas. This article aims to provide a comprehensive exploration of hurricane screens, delving into their purpose, design, installation, maintenance, and the regulations that govern their use.

As we navigate through this intricate subject, we will dissect the various aspects of hurricane screens, from their historical development to their modern applications. We will also delve into the science behind their effectiveness, and the role they play in the broader context of hurricane-resistant architecture. By the end of this glossary entry, you should have a thorough understanding of hurricane screens and the regulations that surround them.

Historical Development of Hurricane Screens

The history of hurricane screens is deeply intertwined with the history of coastal architecture. As communities began to settle in hurricane-prone regions, the need for protective measures against these powerful storms became increasingly apparent. The concept of a ‘hurricane screen’ as we understand it today has evolved significantly over time, with advancements in technology and materials greatly enhancing their effectiveness.

Early hurricane screens were rudimentary in design, often consisting of simple wooden shutters that could be closed over windows during a storm. While these provided some level of protection, they were far from ideal. Over time, as understanding of hurricane dynamics improved and materials technology advanced, the design of hurricane screens became more sophisticated.

The Evolution of Materials

The materials used in the construction of hurricane screens have evolved significantly over time. Early screens were typically made from wood, a material that, while readily available and easy to work with, offered limited protection against the powerful winds and flying debris associated with hurricanes.

As technology advanced, metal began to replace wood as the material of choice for hurricane screens. Metal screens offered greater durability and resistance to impact, making them a more effective solution for hurricane protection. Today, hurricane screens are typically made from high-strength, corrosion-resistant materials such as aluminum or steel, often combined with impact-resistant plastic or glass.

Design Innovations

Alongside advancements in materials, there have also been significant innovations in the design of hurricane screens. Early screens were typically fixed in place, offering protection only for the windows they covered. Modern screens, however, are often designed to protect entire buildings, with systems that can be deployed quickly and easily in the event of a storm.

These systems often incorporate features such as automatic deployment mechanisms, integrated drainage systems, and impact-resistant designs. These innovations have greatly improved the effectiveness of hurricane screens, making them a crucial component of hurricane-resistant architecture.

Understanding Hurricane Screens

At their most basic level, hurricane screens are protective barriers designed to shield buildings from the destructive forces of hurricanes. They are typically installed over windows and doors, although some systems are designed to protect entire buildings. The primary function of a hurricane screen is to prevent wind and flying debris from breaking windows and doors, which can lead to catastrophic damage inside the building.

However, the role of hurricane screens extends beyond simple physical protection. They also play a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity of a building during a hurricane. By preventing wind from entering the building, they help to maintain the internal pressure, reducing the risk of the building being torn apart by the pressure differential between the inside and outside.

The Science Behind Hurricane Screens

The effectiveness of hurricane screens is rooted in the science of fluid dynamics. When a hurricane strikes, the wind exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the exterior of a building. This pressure can easily shatter windows and doors, allowing the wind to enter the building and cause further damage.

By providing a barrier against the wind, hurricane screens help to distribute this pressure evenly across the surface of the building, reducing the risk of windows and doors being broken. Furthermore, by preventing wind from entering the building, they help to maintain the internal pressure, reducing the risk of the building being torn apart by the pressure differential between the inside and outside.

Types of Hurricane Screens

There are several different types of hurricane screens available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common types include roll-down screens, accordion screens, and storm panel screens.

Roll-down screens are typically made from high-strength fabric or metal and are stored in a housing above the window or door when not in use. When a storm approaches, the screen can be rolled down to cover the window or door. Accordion screens, as the name suggests, fold up like an accordion when not in use. They are typically made from metal or high-strength plastic and are attached to the sides of the window or door. Storm panel screens are removable panels that can be installed over windows and doors in the event of a storm. They are typically made from metal or high-strength plastic.

Coastal Building Regulations and Hurricane Screens

Building regulations in coastal areas often require the use of hurricane screens, particularly in regions that are prone to hurricanes. These regulations are designed to ensure that buildings are capable of withstanding the destructive forces of a hurricane, thereby protecting the occupants and minimizing damage.

These regulations typically specify the types of hurricane screens that can be used, as well as the standards they must meet. For example, they may require that screens be capable of withstanding a certain level of impact, or that they be tested to certain standards. They may also specify the methods of installation and maintenance that must be followed.

Standards and Testing

There are several standards and testing procedures that hurricane screens must meet in order to comply with building regulations. These typically involve testing the screens for impact resistance, wind resistance, and durability.

Impact resistance testing involves firing a projectile at the screen to simulate the effect of flying debris during a hurricane. The screen must be able to withstand this impact without breaking. Wind resistance testing involves subjecting the screen to high winds to ensure that it can withstand the pressures exerted by a hurricane. Durability testing involves exposing the screen to harsh environmental conditions to ensure that it can withstand the effects of corrosion and wear over time.

Installation and Maintenance

Building regulations also typically specify the methods of installation and maintenance for hurricane screens. Installation requirements may include specifications for the mounting hardware, the positioning of the screens, and the methods of attachment to the building.

Maintenance requirements typically involve regular inspections and cleaning of the screens, as well as periodic testing to ensure that they are still functioning correctly. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in the screens being deemed non-compliant, which can have serious implications for the building’s insurance and legal status.


Hurricane screens are a crucial component of coastal building regulations, providing essential protection against the destructive forces of hurricanes. Understanding the intricacies of these screens, from their historical development to their modern applications, is key to ensuring their effective use and compliance with building codes.

As we have seen, the design, materials, and science behind hurricane screens have evolved significantly over time, resulting in highly effective systems that are capable of protecting buildings and their occupants from the devastating effects of hurricanes. By adhering to the regulations that govern their use, we can ensure that these systems continue to serve their vital role in safeguarding our coastal communities.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top