The Science Behind Impact Resistance: Materials and Engineering Explained

When looking through the many iterations of windows over the past century, it’s clear just how much research, science, and engineering has gone into them. While windows have been around in some shape or form for what feels like forever, it was the Romans who first started adding glass to them back in 100 AD. 

Glass didn’t catch on immediately, but by the 17th century, it became common practice in England. But erase what you know about windows, because those first windows were nothing like what we have today. Even the windows of 50-60 years ago aren’t what we use today.

Homeowners and commercial property owners now have a bevy of options at their fingertips, but impact-resistant windows have to be among the most exciting. 

Understanding Impact Resistance

As its name suggests, impact windows are incredibly strong and durable and can withstand all kinds of impact without breaking. That’s not to say they’re completely unbreakable, but they can handle a lot before that point.

Generally speaking, impact windows are about four times stronger than non-impact-resistant windows. This means they can handle blunt forces like broken tree limbs, flying debris, and strong winds. These sudden forces and impacts would break a regular window without any problem.

To increase the impact-resistance of these windows, specific material is used that is known to offer improved durability, toughness, strength, and elasticity. Remember, you want something that is strong but still has a little give to it as this increases durability. 

It’s an extreme example but imagine a tree in a wind storm. The tree has branches that can bend and sway with the wind, which gives them better durability. That same concept – elasticity – is used in the manufacturing of impact windows.

Materials Used in Impact-Resistant Products

Some of the most common materials used in impact-resistant windows and doors include reinforced plastics, laminated glass, and composite materials. These materials share a common trait – they offer incredible strength.

Impact-resistant windows are usually made by combining tempered glass with laminated glass. The manufacturer will then add something like polyvinyl butyral (PVB) to the mixture, which makes them even more strong and durable, but still allows for flexibility.

Another notable feature is that these windows are completely transparent, so you don’t have to worry about them looking thicker or cloudy. You can see through them just like a standard window.

Tempered glass is important during the manufacturing process because when it breaks, it doesn’t fall apart into large sharp pieces that can easily injure someone. Instead tempered glass breaks into tiny pieces that don’t usually have sharp edges. The fear of flying glass through a broken window is eliminated with impact-resistant windows.

It’s not just the windows that are made to withstand impact and sudden force. The window frame is also made from material that is much stronger than a typical wooden frame. The heavy-duty frame is designed to add even more integrity to the window. The most common materials used for the frames are vinyl and aluminum, both of which have incredibly long lifespans. They also resist peeling, cracking, and warping.

Testing and Certification Standards

Testing and certification standards are a big part of the impact window equation. 

If you’re looking to make this upgrade to your home or commercial property, it’s wise to take the time and do your research. When looking at the manufacturing details, pay close attention to aspects such as testing methods used, the criteria that were used to assess the window’s performance, hurricane resistance testing, ballistic testing, and impact testing. 

There are three industry standards that impact resistant windows are tested against. They need to stand up to a simulation of hurricane force winds, as well as impact from ball bearings at a predetermined speed. If the window meets all the standards and requirements it gets an AAMA Gold Label Certification.

Future Trends and Challenges

Moving forward, we can expect to see impact-resistant windows that aren’t just safe and secure but make use of sustainable materials and are even more environmentally-friendly. 

Impact-resistant windows do a great job of limiting air leakage in a home or property, but there’s always room for improvement. With a strong focus on climate change, we can expect to see even more improvements in this area.

Besides improved performance standards, emerging threats will be another trend to watch. That includes security threats, climate threats, natural threats, and more. Impact windows need to evolve to keep standing up to what is being thrown at them.

What’s also exciting is that the market size of impact-resistant windows is expected to grow substantially between now and 2031 as more people see the benefits and building codes and requirements continue to change across the country and even the world.

A big challenge will be to ensure that they remain a cost-effective option. If the materials used become too expensive, homeowners will be less likely to install impact-resistant windows. 

Impact Resistant Windows are Here to Stay in a Big Way

If you’re under the impression that impact windows are relatively new, nothing could be further from the truth. As climate change becomes more apparent, security threats continue to rise, and the desire for more sustainable materials and products increases, we can expect impact windows to play an even bigger role in residential and commercial spaces.



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