Posted: Mar 19, 2017
Architectural upgrades that lower Windstorm Insurance

For many years, owners of historic homes in Old Town Key West who wanted to upgrade aging windows and doors were caught between conflicting Key West organizations; HARC, who wants to maintain the historic architecture of properties, and FIRM, who wants to lower windstorm insurance rates for Key West residents.  In essence - architecturally correct, storm rated windows and doors made of other than wood, favored by FIRM, did not pass muster with HARC. While FIRM remains flexible to non-wood windows, HARC now accepts several wood framed windows and doors that have been certified to meet or exceed Miami/Dade hurricane standards.


As noted in my Fall 2016 report on this issue, both the Historic Architecture Review Commission (HARC) and Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe County (FIRM) were working to identify multiple replacement windows and doors options that would satisfy the goals of both agencies. 


But first a quick review of the players directing the issue.

Who are HARC and FIRM?

HARC is an appointed Commission resident in the Planning Department of the City of Key West. The seven members of HARC review proposed projects to buildings, strutures and sites located in the historic zoning districts of Old Town Key West (including those buildings or structures outside the "Historic District" but, are deemed to have historic significance).  Often times building permits for improving property can be approved by HARC's staff and then sent to the Building Department without HARC's members formal approval. When there is extensive new or improvement construction involved, or a minor work that does not comply with HARC guidelines, the permit approval process will incorporate a review and approval or denial by the HARC Commission.




FIRM is a non-government citizens group founded in Key West in February 2006 that is dedicated to ensuring that windstorm insurance rates for Monroe County are neither excessive, discriminatory, nor unaffordable. Regarding replacement windows, FIRM continues to believe non-wood options should be made available. FIRM has been so successful in lobbying for windstorm rates accountability that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recently named a FIRM consultant as a Consumer Liaison.


Where were we last fall?

The challenge was to find a way to install impact resistant windows on contributing (Historic) buildings that have non-historic and/or replacement windows, without changing or degrading the architectural integrity and appearance of the property. Recent developments in metal window manufacturing had made significant headway and HARC was looking at a timber double glazed impact window product that looked very promising.

And the winners are?

After extensive review, HARC now authorizes the use of energy efficient, wood framed windows for use in historic (contributing) homes.  Listed below are four established manufacturers that produce these type of windows.  Three companies are US based, one is Canadian and each offers windows in multiple sizes for new or replacement construction in historic homes in Key West. These windows also provide the windstorm resistance necessary to receive windstorm insurance credits so your windstorm insurance rates can be reduced.

Here is a list of actual wood windows approved for High Velocity, Miami - Dade County Notice of Acceptance (NOA) or Florida State approval. As the approvals have an expiration date and new windows can be included in the acceptance list, it is advised that interested parties frequently review the sites to stay current. From this list, HARC staff will review the specific window unit that is proposed to make sure the size of applied wood grill, wood sashes and wood frames are compatible with traditional historic wood windows found in the Key West Historic District:


For the Miami-Dade County NOA:

For Florida State Acceptance for High Velocity:

NOTE:  The City of Key West, Building/Planning Departments, Historic Preservation Planner and HARC Commission do not identify, select or prefer any specific manufacturer or window model series for use.  Be sure to check with a local architect, window supplier or contractor to identify approved window options and to assist in completing the requisite permit.

Lincoln Wood Products, Inc.



Lincoln Wood Products is a privately owned business based in Merrill, WI. Lincoln manufactures and assembles a complete line of wood windows and patio doors out of multiple facilities in Merrill, WI, shipping nationwide.  Lincoln products are marketed through a network of over 400 independent distributors throughout the U.S and Canada.

The Lincoln windows suitable for use in the historic homes of Key West are any of the Standard, Lifestyle or Quantum, double hung windows with a natural all wood exterior finished.

These windows offer the architectural style that is appealing to the eye and the structural and glass integrity that appeals to your windstorm insurance provider.


Jeld-Wen is a publiclly traded company (JELD with a January 27, 2017 Initial Public Offering) located in Klamath, OR. Jeld-Wen is well tuned to historic preservation processes and encourages owners to research their property not only to assist in renovations but to possibly secure reduced rate mortgage loans and/or grants.

The Jeld-Wen windows suitable for use are the Custom Wood, Single or Double Hung Windows. These series are built from Auralast® Wood (Pine) with a proprietary water-based protection process for a guaranteed 20-year protection against wood rot and termites. (Presently the warranty covers only the original buyer of the windows.  Check with Jeld-Wen for transfer of warranty options/opportunity).  Options include multiple clad colors, 10 interior factory finishes, decorative grilles and ENERGY STAR®.

Note:  Jeld-Wen wood impact windows have not yet received Florida or Miami-Dade County NOA or FL Building Product Approval for use within the Miami-Dade/Broward High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ).  However, they DO have a FL Building Product Approval for use outside the HVHZ. Presently, Key West is outside the HVHZ.


Being outside the HVHZ means a secondary source of protection is not presently required by the Building Department, but could eventually be as the code is always changing.  Examples of secondary protection are; removable storm panels, abatement hurricane screens and approved wood shutters.  These protections are also considered for non-approved and non-impact resistant windows and doors.


Kolbe® is a family owned and operated business located in Wausau, WI. Kolbe has an extensive line of K-Force impact resistant windows and doors that are as beautiful as they are resilent. Kolbe is a member of the Wood and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and an active participant in the WDMA sponsored Hallmark Certification quality assurance program.

The Kolbe windows suitable for use are the all wood Heritage Series. Heritage Series feature FSC-COC certified wood with glass of either double or triple pane or LoE + argon.




MQ is home based in Quebec, Canada with US showroom locations in Dania, Fl and Johns Island, SC.  MQ was founded in 1975 and  exports the majority of its production to the United States, the Caribbean Islands, South America and Europe. When you go to the homepage and select "Certifications" you will see a seal of approval from Miami-Dade County.

In particular, the Mistral Series-200 and T-200, double hung, wood, traditional style windows are specifically engineered to meet the stringent "high-impact" requirements of the Miami-Dade County code regulations.


Each of these windows, and comparable doors, can be ordered; online, through most home improvement centers, via your favorite contractor or through Island Doors and Windows on N. Roosevelt Blvd.

The windows arrive as part of a wood box frame.  The entire window and frame is installed so make accommodations for the thickness of the frame in your measurements.

Make sure to do all your work under permit, even if you are doing the installation yourself.

If you need assistance from the City of Key West, the person to talk to is Preservation Planner Enid Torregrossa.  Enid is very helpful and, along with your architect or contractor, will help you steer clear of any permitting miscues. Also, many thanks to Bryan Green, Chairman of HARC, Steve Russ, Vice President of FIRM and Layne Thrasher, Owner of Island Doors and Windows for your help in writing this report.

As always, DO NOT ORDER ANY MATERIAL until the permitting process is complete.


If you have any questions or comments, please contact me here.

Good luck!

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