Assura Windows and Doors, LLC., designer and manufacturer of impact windows and doors for the residential market, is headquartered in Pompano Beach, Broward County, Florida, slightly north of Fort Lauderdale. Assura’s Plant Manager Armando Barrionuevo describes how impact windows and doors “protect all that matters,” so families are safeguarded from injuries resulting from the impact of “high-velocity debris during a storm, by keeping the elements outside the home rather than inside.”
What is not to love in the Sunshine State? With its subtropical to tropical climate, Florida has a welcoming 230 days of sunshine annually – reason enough for the influx of millions of tourists each year. In fact, according to Orlando Weekly, Florida saw a record-breaking 96 million visitors in 2018, with millions of those visitors trekking in the southern counties of Monroe, Collier, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Miami-Dade is the state’s largest county with a population of close to three million.
But aside from basking in the glory of sunshine on an almost daily basis, residents must also face other concerns, particularly as Florida is the nation’s most hurricane-prone state with approximately 120 such storms between 1850 and 2018. People and property are valued assets. Assura Windows and Doors knows this all too well, and manufactures products to ensure that these assets are protected by the most efficient, quality-driven products possible.
Hurricanes not only cause damage from wind damage but pressure differences. “The equilibrium between the pressure inside the house and outside,” says Edward Pooley, Assura’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “What impact windows and doors do is prevent the compromise of the internal pressure inside the house, because that’s what causes the roof to blow off and windows to blow out. The premise is if you can keep the windows and doors intact, then the internal pressure of the home isn’t going to increase to the extent where it’s going to cause damage to the home.” Impact windows and doors “keep the integrity of the structure in place,” he says.
“There are a lot of differences between a non-impact and an impact window,” says Armando. In impact windows, two panes of laminated tempered safety glass are assembled with a flexible resin that is resistant to shattering if hit by debris, unlike traditional glass that will break apart into flying shards. Aside from the glass, there is also the silicone adhesive that has to be considered. This “holds the glass to the metal frame. It’s a higher density and has better adhesion qualities than a non-impact window.”
The frames of impact windows and doors can be manufactured from aluminum or vinyl with an array of color options. The frame “is a much heavier duty frame,” he explains. “The glass could be pulled out of the frame if the frame doesn’t protect the glass.”
There are also different options such as tinting or low-E (low emissivity) coating. A low-E coating is a microscopic layer of metallic oxides, invisible to the naked eye, that allow natural light into a home while protecting carpets and furniture from fading or skin from burning.
In 2017, Assura purchased the assets of AWP Windows and Doors LLC and TM Windows, two relatively-large, established impact window and door manufacturers in Florida’s southern market. Together, these companies had fifty plus years of experience in the industry. Assura now ranks as one of Florida’s largest manufacturers.
“The window and door industry is a very competitive industry,” Edward says. He explains that AWP and TM were struggling competitors, so discussions eventually began about merging. “Each company had different strengths,” says Edward. AWP served the big box retail side, and TM had a large dealer base, with each carrying different products. “Together, you had the best of both worlds,” he shares.
“The cost to go out and develop, from scratch, a sliding glass door that could expand from two to eight panels, would be extremely expensive,” says Edward. “TM had a product already developed. So there were advantages to both entities from a product standpoint,” Edward says.
“We don’t typically go after commercial applications because we don’t offer products such as window walls which are typical for storefronts,” Armando adds.
Partnerships are important for any business, and Assura has built solid partnerships with numerous dealers over the decades, an essential element of the business since it does not sell to the public. “We don’t have a retail facility, and we exclusively sell to the dealers and to big-box retailers. We rely on our established dealers to sell our products,” says Edward.
“They understand the importance of a good quality well-built window,” he continues. “We want to partner with dealers that are knowledgeable about the window and door space.” He points out that window or door installation is not a simple task. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
The company offers a variety of window and door styles and choices that “depend on the application,” Edward says. For example, the company’s 390 series sliding glass door can accommodate up to eight panels. “You can pretty much open the whole back end of your home. That’s more appealing to people living [near] the water.” For others, an option may include French or swinging doors to allow full outside views.
Most of the Assura products purchased through big box stores are its 2500 series, geared toward the do-it-yourselfers who are perhaps looking for a lower-end product for their home improvements. “There are two different markets,” explains Armando. But those who require a higher-end window with thicker aluminum or glass would probably opt for the company’s 605, 249, or 390 series. “Those you are going to see on the higher-end homes,” he says.
Often, an architect or contractor will suggest the best type of window best suited to the consumer’s needs. “Our windows are ‘specced’ in quite often by architects,” continues Edward. “A lot of times, it’s based on just the design pressures (DP) that are required for the zoning or the application… That’s what they pretty much spec into the home. They don’t necessarily spec the look of it. It’s more or less what’s required by code.”
“Not all coastal communities require impact windows,” says Edward. “Miami-Dade has been pretty much at the forefront – the leaders – of the regulatory entity that certifies the impact windows. Miami-Dade County has one of the strictest requirements. If your product meets Miami-Dade rules, a lot of communities will accept that.”
Edward says that one of the challenges is that of the regulation aspect. “It’s very complicated,” he says, giving an example of a home near a designated turtle nesting area. “You have to have windows with glass that prevent the reflection of the light so the turtle won’t be gravitated toward that light.”
Another consideration is how wide a window is and how many stories the window is from the ground. “That all has its factors into what the window make-up needs to be,” Edward continues. “Architects play a huge part in determining whether or not a window will fit in a space or not.”
He notes that yet another consideration in determining which windows to use is the requirements of historical districts and their goal to preserve the historical nature of their community. “You have to have a product that not only meets the current code with respect to hurricanes, but you also have to have a product that looks similar to what they have in the homes in those historical districts.”
Assura’s documented Notice of Acceptance (NOA) indicates that its products have been tested either by Miami-Dade or the state of Florida. Armando states that products are submitted to a third-party laboratory and specific tests are conducted with the findings forwarded to the company and the state. “Then the state approves or disapproves your product,” he says.
Once approved, a yearly audit is conducted by Miami-Dade and a vendor for the state. “They have a list of regulatory items that they check for compliance,” says Edward, “to make sure that nothing has changed, that the way that we engineered the product is exactly the way that it’s going out the door.”
Assura engages in extensive research to familiarize itself with trends in the industry. “Our sales force plays a big part in that,” says Edward. Dealers will sometimes ask the sales team if the company has a particular product that the end user is requesting. “As customers’ tastes change, then [dealers] request those different changes in the products they purchase.” But such requests have to make financial sense to Assura and be something, “that’s going to be able to be sold across the board. Innovation is important.”
As for the future, Edward would like to see Assura, “continue to take market share. I see Assura being one of the leaders in the impact window and door market in the south Florida market.”