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Why Do South Florida Building Codes Require Doors to Swing Outward?

After  what  Hurricane Andrew brought about in South Florida, engineers devised  better ways to avoid property destruction. Who would have known that simply switching the orientation of how your doors open can help protect your property in a hurricane event?

In South Florida, building standards require entry doors to swing out because they offer greater protection from hurricanes. This code was enacted after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.

Hurricane Andrew

In the late summer of 1992, southern Florida was ravaged by a CAT-5 (category-five) hurricane. Hurricane Andrew started as a tropical depression near the Cape Verde Islands on August 16. It intensified into a tropical storm the next day as it traveled west-northwest, crossing the Atlantic ocean. (Source: Britannica)

Hurricane Andrew’s strength intensified on August 22 due to a low-pressure cell the previous day. It made landfall on August 23 in the Bahamas with wind speeds upward of 160 miles per hour.

Hurricane Andrew reached the tip of Florida on August 24, bringing a destructive wind speed of 166.8 miles per hour. It was then known to be the most expensive hurricane experienced by the nation. Damages were estimated to be about $26.5 billion and left about 250,000 homeless, nearly 80,000 businesses closed, and about 100,000 residents fleeing their homes. (Source: NPS)

This hurricane was the first major hurricane to hit the peninsula after Hurricane Donna some 25 years ago.

South Florida Building Code for Doors

The devastation Hurricane Andrew brought caused changes in how buildings were designed and built. Engineers and contractors sought to improve the structural integrity of houses and buildings.

The Florida Building Code (FBC) standards were already structured for houses and buildings to withstand hurricanes. South Florida chief structural compliance officer for Broward County.

We’ve had a head start versus the rest of the state. We’ve had all that stuff since 1994.

Rusty Carroll

(Source: Sun-Sentinel)

Part of the change of the FBC is to build windows that open outward instead of the conventional, convenient way of opening inward. One of the principal advantages of employing a door that opens outwards is safer than doors opening inward. Security is particularly critical for public facilities since an inward opening door can prevent a group of people from leaving should an emergency arise. (Source: Alco Impact)

The revised Florida Building Code aims to prevent airborne objects from entering your exterior door at 140 mph (or greater), inflicting substantial damages. A compromised door changes the air pressure in your home substantially, and in extreme cases, it can cause the roof to blow off.

The only downside of an outward opening door is the higher probability of a person getting hit by someone exiting the premises. (Source: Alco Impact)

Another safety feature an outward opening door offers is security against burglars, as the hinges are reinforced. This makes disassembling doors more difficult. An outward swinging door paired with impact glass further deters criminals from getting into an establishment unlawfully. Impact glass is manufactured to withstand flying objects without shattering and breaking into a million pieces. Today, many businesses have already adapted, if not improved, entry doors across the nation. (Source: Alco Impact)

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