Jan 23, 2024

Exterior Building Panel Industry Differs with KCC on Vulnerability of Systems

The head of a trade group for the exterior insulated panel industry has taken issue with a recent hurricane report by Karen Clark & Co., arguing that the report failed to point out that some of the products meet the rigors of updated Florida building codes.

"EIFS can certainly deal with the requirements of the hurricane codes, which is why EIFS is still such a popular cladding in Florida," said Stephen Sears, CEO of the Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems Industry Members Association.

The Karen Clark white paper, reported on by Insurance Journal on May 23, reviewed the 2022 hurricane season and its insured losses. The report highlighted a number of building techniques and materials that did not fare well in Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida in September. One material noted was EIFS, the panels of which range in size and structure and are often used on commercial properties, including apartment buildings.

The report said EIFS "is especially vulnerable because it is light-weight and detaches easily from the underlying structure." It included a photograph of a multi-story building in Placida, Florida, near Fort Myers, in which exterior siding and panels had been ripped off, "demonstrating why it should not be used in hurricane-prone areas."

Sears noted that the photo did not indicate when the building was constructed or if it met Miami-Dade building codes, which were significantly updated in 2002 and are considered some of the toughest in the country for hurricane resistance.

After Sears spoke with a KCC representative, Steve Moore of Karen Clark said the report and photograph has been updated. The white paper now shows a Cape Coral building, constructed in 2017, in which more than half of the panels on one side have been torn off. The photo can be seen above.

"Independent studies have shown, and our own damage surveys have historically found that EIFS performs relatively poorly in hurricane conditions," Moore said in an email to Sears. "If you believe more recent installations have improved the wind- and water-impact resistance of EIFS, we will attempt to collect the data to see if we can observe that in future surveys."

Sears pointed out that the panels, versions of which have been in use for more than 50 years, can produce significant energy savings in buildings and in the transportation of the product, compared to much heavier brick or stucco. Some manufacturers provide high-impact or impact-resistant EIFS panels that are built with a stronger mesh structure that meets new code requirements, he said.

The panel systems have withstood a number of storm events, including Hurricane Sandy, according to EIFS industry information. In 2013, Sandy's storm surge flooded an apartment building on Long Island and destroyed parts of the interior. But the exterior EIFS panels, installed in a 2008 renovation, survived, the association said.

Topics Florida

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