Special-Lite Engineers and Delivers a One-of-a-kind Storm Simulator

The University of Florida is Set to “Judge” Building Architectural Products and Entry Systems

Approximately $10 billion in damage occurs in the U.S. annually due to natural events, the majority from Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused more than $25B in just Dade County Florida. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused more than $100B in total economic loss. In 2009, Henry Upjohn, CEO of Special-Lite, Inc., a leading manufacturer of heavy duty entrance door systems, was approached by a business acquaintance that works with the insurance industry, and routinely tours post-storm environments. This professional explained that he regularly finds instances where roll-up and sectional garage doors, built to known standards and storm ratings, were consistently failing at levels below their rating. There was a need to develop better diagnostic tools to understand how building components and claddings respond to extreme wind effects. During that initial meeting, it was suggested that Upjohn should meet Forrest Masters, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Professor of Civil & Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida (UF). The UF wind engineering program is one of the largest of its kind in the US. The group is well known for full-scale research, i.e. performing experiments in hurricanes or replicating their effects at a sufficient scale and realism to evaluate the performance of complete building systems. Special-Lite’s engineering team understood that property damage appeared to be most significant when building entries and windows have become compromised, often resulting in catastrophic failure. The opportunity to partner with Upjohn’s company was an ideal match as Special-Lite has built its reputation on developing engineered door entry and architectural solutions that withstand the most challenging, abusive and corrosive environments. Upjohn and Masters met soon after, and decided to build a testing apparatus capable of simulating wind and wind pressure associated with some of the most severe weather known on the planet. Conventional solutions were not up to the task, so they formed a diverse team encompassing civil, mechanical, manufacturing and industrial engineering to create a one-ofa-kind machine capable of simulating the damaging effects of hurricanes and other extreme wind events. Conceptually, the system can be thought of as a means to replicate naturally-occurring wind and pressure caused by turbulence in the approach flow and the flow distortion around a building. For example, if a pressure sensor recorded highfidelity data on the wall of a commercial building in Homestead, Florida during Hurricane Andrew, the simulator can “replay” this pressure sequence in its entirety. Ideally, the measured and artificially-applied load would be virtually indistinguishable. To meet the challenge, Upjohn developed the original simulator concept design drawings, as well as personally supervised the simulator construction and assembly at the Powell Laboratory on the University of Florida’s campus. He, and various members of his engineering and electrical fabrication team from the Special-Lite facility in Decatur, Michigan took many trips to Gainesville, Florida over the course of 18 months during the simulator construction.

Simulations Get Real

The new simulator (patent pending), officially referred to as the Dynamic Wind Velocity and Pressure Simulator (DWVPS) or affectionately called “The Judge”, is a unique machine that Henry Upjohn, CEO, Special-Lite, Inc. (left) with Forrest Masters, PhD., P.E. creates dynamic simulated Saffir-Simpson Scale Category 5 pressure events that produce rapidly fluctuating positive and negative pressures on a test specimen to determine at what level failure, if any, occurs. The simulator’s primary function is to evaluate the performance of large component and cladding systems with the goal of designing better, more robust products that will endure all classes of hurricane and tornado events. Some of the examples of use in the construction industry include testing for both sectional and roll-up garage doors, entry doors, windows, curtain walls, siding, shingles and soffits. Other exterior components affected by extreme wind loads caused by hurricane and tornado events can also be tested. The system operates in two modes. The apparatus has a simulation range capability of 460 psf at 70,000 cfm leakage in the pressure chamber and 230+ mph in the high-speed test section. “We can replicate wind effects on buildings expected to occur during an entire hurricane passage,” Masters said. “A strong Category 5 hurricane is not a problem. We haven’t run a simulation yet, but I’m confident we can also simulate loads on a low-rise building in an EF4 tornado.” The DWVPS also features a velocity simulation area which subjects smaller specimen samples (typically shingles and siding) to high speed wind flow with rapid fluctuations. Funding for the simulator was provided primarily by Special-Lite, with support from the Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center at FSU, the Florida Building Commission, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida. “The new simulator complements multiple modeling and testing apparatuses, ranging from universal testing machines, to the boundary layer wind tunnel. Its specific purpose is to apply out-of-plane loading to large-scale building components and cladding to understand how they behave under dynamic wind loading. The findings (data) are used to verify computational modeling and rational engineering analysis,” Masters said. Test data is captured on the DWVPS with load cells, strain gauges, photogrammetry and HD video. Deliverable data includes forces (reactions), strains, 3D displacement, and video of the entire test to identify time and degree of damage. View PDF    

Special-Lite Featured at APPA Conference

Special-Lite Doors and Entrance Systems for College and University Buildings Featured at APPA Annual Conference in San Diego

DECATUR, MI – Special-Lite, Inc., participated at the APPA Annual Conference, held in San Diego in July 2014. Roger Stempky, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said “The event provided Special-Lite with a valuable opportunity to support as well as listen and learn from APPA members, whose organization represents over 1300 colleges and universities and more than 4000 facility and architectural leadership professionals.” “Providing solutions that support APPA efforts to improve building energy efficiency is very important to us. During the conference, we focused special attention on how Special-Lite products can deliver increased building energy efficiency as well as our ability to create custom solutions for specific types of buildings. Featured was our flush door, which delivers improved thermal performance over many traditional steel and aluminum doors.” Stempky said his company also showcased a decorative powder coating available on Special-Lite aluminum doors and an Acrylic Modified Polyester (AMP) face sheet for the company’s FRP products, both of which provide a very high quality wood grain appearance. “These wood grain doors are more durable and longer lasting than traditional wood doors, providing owners of historical structures with a more practical and sustainable way to complement, preserve and protect the legacy of their buildings.” He said Special-Lite’s ability to fabricate custom entrance systems further supports the unique requirements of each building project, whether complementing historical architecture, enhancing contemporary designs, or harmonizing with important elements of an institution’s unique heritage or brand. The broad line of Special-Lite products and the company’s custom capabilities can be explored at www.special-lite.com. Personal assistance is available from local sales representatives, listed at www.special-lite.com/representatives. About Special-Lite, Inc. Special-Lite manufacturers engineered architectural products, which includes commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum (Type II) framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Our complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass and aluminum framing. Our engineered, made to order architectural products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. The company was founded in 1971 and pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins in the early 1980’s, and today is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States.

Special-Lite Introduces “All-Fiberglass” Doors

New AF Series products offer corrosion and impact resistance; also support healthcare and food industry sterilization requirements.

DECATUR, MI – Special-Lite, Inc. has announced the addition of two new All-Fiberglass (AF) series of doors and frames to the Special-Lite® line of heavy-duty entrance systems. Included are AF-100 Series doors, the industry’s only unitized, hermetically sealed, fully “pultruded” doors. Also included are AF-200 Series doors, which feature a completely sealed design with a range of finish options – including pebble grain, sandstone-textured and wood grain – shared with the company’s SL-Series doors. Roger Stempky, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said “These new additions to the Special-Lite line reflect the quality and durability that have long been associated with the Special-Lite brand. The All-Fiberglass or ‘AF’ designation enables architects, specifiers and end-users to identify the products as suitable for applications requiring high corrosion and impact resistance, as well as easy sterilization for healthcare and food industry environments.” Stempky said “AF-100 Series doors are the former Industrial Series all-fiberglass pultruded products previously offered under the Universal Pultrusions brand and widely recognized as highly durable and corrosion resistant solutions, with a smooth, simple and elegant finish.” He said the renamed products will now be available exclusively through the Special-Lite sales organization as part of the Special-Lite line. The company will continue to produce its pultruded doors in Marshall, Arkansas. According to Stempky, “The AF-200 Series doors represent a new product innovation, marrying all-fiberglass technology with popular Special-Lite face sheet textures to create a completely sealed door with versatile and attractive finish options compatible with our SL Series products.” The AF-200 Series will also be available exclusively through the SpecialLite sales organization. Complete information about AF-100 and AF-200 Series products may be obtained at www.special-lite.com. About Special-Lite, Inc. Special-Lite manufacturers engineered architectural products, which includes commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum (Type II) framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Our complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass and aluminum framing. Our engineered, made to order architectural products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. The company was founded in 1971 and pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins in the early 1980’s, and today is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States. View PDF