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arrowHurricane-Proof Your Home

Alexander Glass, LLC of Ocean County shares experts' advice on how making your home or office hurricane proof will help keep the "never" situation from happening

With hurricane season upon on it’s likely you will consider having glass windows and doors that can sustain the elements. Read more to learn about how top designers are making their facilities climate proof. Mother Nature’s wrath is not a path we want to be in, but Alexander Glass ensures your safety upon any glass installation.

It's relatively simple to find commercial builders that specialize in constructing or retrofitting facilities that can be endowed with green credentials, such as the increasingly ubiquitous Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) blessing.

But McCarthy Building Corp. – a 150-year, employee-owned company from St. Louis with more than 800 "significant" healthcare projects on its portfolio – is elevating the concept of sustainable buildings to a whole different level. Not only are its projects focused on having a minimal environmental impact, increasingly, they are architected with the potential side effects of climate change – more frequent extreme weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes – firmly in mind.

"We want to make sure that 'never' events are really never events," said Michael Bolen, McCarthy chairman and CEO, pointing to the devastation caused in 2011 by the EF5 multiplex tornado that touched down in Joplin, Mo., and (much earlier in 2005) by the Category 3-classified Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

To that end, McCarthy is involved in two innovative hospital reconstruction projects that offer a glimpse into the future of truly sustainable, resilient architecture.

In New Orleans, the company is involved (the official entity on the project is Clark/McCarthy Healthcare Partners) with the $900 million reconstruction of the Veteran Affairs (VA) medical facility: Hurricane Katrina actually knocked out seven of the 16 area hospitals for more than two years. The former VA building was one of them, and the organization behind its replacement is determined to avoid the same sort of catastrophe in the future. "You can't just build a billion-dollar-plus hospital in a lake bed and hope this doesn't happen again," Bolen said.

Although the project is far from complete, the design takes an "upside-down" approach to the way hospitals are typically organized. For example, all of the mission-critical services such as the emergency room – which is accessible by boat – are located at least 20 feet above base flood level. Things that are typically put in basements such as electrical components, emergency generators and kitchens were located on the fourth floor.

There are other features intended to keep things up and running for almost a week in the event that power or water services are interrupted: the energy plant can store up to 320,000 gallons of fuel, and the rainwater harvesting system can collect up to 1 million gallons. "The hospital has been designed to operate like an island for five days," Bolen said.

McCarthy's work in Missouri is equally groundbreaking, where it is building the 875,000-square-foot Mercy Hospital Joplin to replace the regional facility demolished by the tornado two years ago. To make the new facility more resilient – and capable of sustained operation if another storm hits – the plans have included investments in technologies design to resist heavy wind loads.

For example, all of the glass on the exterior of the building has been installed into the skin of the building for increased resiliency and "safe rooms" have been created deep in the core of the building.

There are actually three types of glass being used. In public areas, the winds are rated "only" to 110 mile-per-hour (mph) winds (compared with a typical rate of 90 mph, because these spaces usually can be evacuated pretty quickly. The interior safe room windows are covered with a special laminate that protects them against 250 mph gusts. Each floor includes a hallway with reinforced walls and ceilings, which can be sealed off with special doors.

As in New Orleans, the design has been flipped on its head: equipment and utilities normally installed on the roof have been located in the basement. There are redundant electrical supplies buried throughout a "storm-hardened" structure away from the main building, which can be accessed via a tunnel.

"This was a historic storm that taught us many lessons," said John Famen, executive director of strategic projects for Mercy, in a statement.

Is there an upcharge for features like these? In the case of the Joplin facility, these upgrades represented about $15 million in an overall budget of $335 million, according to Bolen.

In some ways, this heightened awareness of the need to climate-proof buildings echoes the architectural movement in California that began more than three decades again as communities and businesses awakened to the need for better seismic design

"It's all pointed at trying to be sustainable and hardened. People are much more aware of the need to do this," Bolen said. "If nothing else, they are doing this sort of thinking and planning in places where it never was a consideration before."

indow cleaning is one of those tasks that begs to be hired out -- all that spraying and reaching and wiping, and you end up with a mess of streaks that catch the light just so.

It doesn't have to be that way. Cleaning glass, whether it's a window or a mirror or a coffee table, is more about the tools than the elbow grease. With the right stuff in your bucket, you can get your glass streak-free.

Here, five tips that can get you to that sweet spot, the first of which is as basic as it gets: If you're diluting your cleaner, dilute it with something clean.

Most of us don't consider what's in the water we use to clean. In truth, it usually doesn't matter. But with glass, you see absolutely everything, so water content can make a difference -- especially if you have hard water.

If you're diluting your glass cleaner, consider using distilled water. It doesn't have all the minerals in it that can be present in the water from your tap, so it won't leave behind any streaky deposits on your bathroom mirror.

Of course, the cleaner you're diluting matters, too. Up next: It's the cheap route to streak-free.

Vinegar is one of those all-purpose ingredients that's tough to live without. It's as great on a salad as it in on your mirror, and it costs practically nothing.

Whether you're out of your usual glass cleaner or you're just looking for a cheaper option, vinegar can do wonders for your windows and mirrors. A vinegar-water solution (50/50) works great -- just spray or wipe it on like you would any other cleaner.

The smell will stick around for a bit, so if you gag at the scent of vinegar, you might save this streak-free cleaner for outdoor glass.

Up next: When mixing your glass cleaner, go small.

There's nothing like a bunch of suds to leave your glass full of streaks. This isn't a problem if you're using vinegar or straight glass cleaner -- no soap there. But if your coffee table is truly dirty and you're adding soap to the solution, remember: Go easy.

It doesn't take much soap to get rid of that dirt, and using too much will result in an overly dense cleaner that can leave a streaky residue on the glass.

And speaking of residue: It's perhaps the biggest glass-cleaning mistake so many of us make.

You know that bucket of glass-cleaning supplies you carry through the house when it's window day?

There should not be a roll of paper towels in it.

Paper towels leave not only streaks, but linty ones. Instead, go for a microfiber cloth, a squeegee, or, best yet, a handful of newspaper. Your morning read does an amazing job on glass.

If you go with the newspaper, be sure to wear gloves. That ink gets everywhere.

Finally, the finishing touch.

Even if you do exactly the right things, you can still end up with a streak or three. In that case, the simplest solution is to finish the job with a quick buff.

A chamois or a microfiber cloth is best, although a regular rag will do. Keep it dry, and just buff over the glass when you finish cleaning it. You'll find those streaks just disappear.

As always, keeping up with the job makes it a whole lot easier. The less dirt and grime your windows accumulate, the less time you'll spend cleaning them -- a quick vinegar spritz, newspaper swipe and you're on your way. Alexander Glass wants you to have your glass to "shine bright like a diamond"!

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