2012’s first Gulf of Mexico hurricane “Debby” is forming.
Just in time for Debby and her kind, Rice University recently found a way to protect its students and staff during hurricanes — while also saving enough energy to pay for itself.
It is something the university has never had before in its long history.
Rice University sits in a major Hurricane Zone on the Gulf of Mexico (Houston). When Hurricane IKE hit Houston as a CAT 1 hurricane in September 2008, Rice administrators were concerned about their students’ safety. In an effort to protect the students they moved them from one building to another, but then they had a rude shock when they realized that each building they took the students to had the same vulnerability – fragile glass windows!
Flying glass is lethal. During the storm, buildings all over Houston lost windows, causing extensive internal damages. Windows blew out over 150 miles inland. IKE even blew out power lines all the way to Ohio! And it was only a CAT 1.
IKE cost Houston and surrounding counties billions in losses. Chase Tower was stripped of windows. Imagine the damage if due to hotter temperatures we are hit with a CAT 2 or 3 storm?
Armor Glass offered Rice a solution. We would “armor their glass” and also solve their heat problem — cutting over 50% of the solar heat making people sweat inside and 99% of the UV that destroys interiors (and causes skin cancer.) The energy savings will pay for the installation costs in less than 5 years. After that, the university is making money by spending less on energy costs over its life.
The university will also save by not having to replace furnishings as often due to UV damage.
So people at Rice recently had its Weiss dorm building retrofitted with Armor Glass security film so it can serve as a “Shelter in Place” location. Students have said they love the improvement. It is a building which has hardened its windows to protect students and staff when Houston is struck with another Hurricane like IKE, or bigger.
Have you noticed? We live in glass palaces. Glass hasn’t changed in 5,000 years humans have been using it. Until Armor Glass.
Glass has a natural enemy. Flying tree limbs and other wind-borne debris during a hurricane easily breaks bare glass, unleashing nature’s fury and flying shards of glass on students and people in any building in hurricane or tornado-force winds. All windows have to be armored to prevent even greater losses (not just from storms but from human intrusion as well.)
When IKE hit Houston one high rise penthouse had its glass wall blow in. The couple inside tried to open the door to get out of the flying glass, gale winds and rain, but the wind pressure was too great to open it.
Rice leaders should be given credit for this vision and investment that will repay itself many times over. The safety to students is greatly enhanced, the rooms are more comfortable, the university saves on its power bills beyond the cost of the installation — and the campus gets its first “safe building” where students and staff can Shelter in Place during a dangerous storm.
Just in time for Debby, and beyond.