High-Performance Glass Solutions

A systems approach to efficient building envelopes
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Sponsored by National Glass Association
By Jessica Jarrard

Specifying Protective Glass

While there are glazing options that can provide vital protections against glare and thermal loss, there are also additional ways glazing can provide protection to occupants in our ever-changing world. Specific glass types and glazing can provide added safety protections, such as fire protection as well as intruder and blast protections.

In our modern world, there is a need for protective glazing on glass doors and windows to keep occupants safe. This is especially true in public buildings and areas where people congregate, such as schools, churches, and government buildings. While it would be great to make every window and point of entry bullet and fire resistant, a common barrier is, once again, cost. In response, the glass industry has developed a range of security glazing solutions that provide forced-entry resistance without the high price of more traditional bullet-resistant products. The products are designed to not only delay a potential intruder until first responders arrive but also provide daily benefits, such as thermal protection, enhanced acoustics, and daylighting.

While protective glazing and security glazing that can frustrate intruders have recently become more popular in public places, fire-rated glazing products and fire-protective glass have been in demand for quite some time. Fire has been a risk to building structures for centuries, and market demand has driven innovative fire-protection technology to ensure occupant safety. In addition, fire-rated glass and glazing solutions are capable of providing additional benefits to occupants, including daylighting and thermal performance.

Product performance, design, weight, cost, and delivery will vary depending on whether a glazing product is fire protective or fire resistive. This begs the question: What’s the difference?

In terms of performance, “fire-protective products limit the spread of fire and smoke. Fire-resistive products also limit the spread of fire and smoke but also act as a barrier to radiant heat,” says Jerry Cucchi of Aluflam.

“The barrier to radiant heat is an important distinction between the two and can have a significant impact on cost and schedule,” Cucchi says. “There are also differences in how the glass options are made and supplied. Fire-protectives are thinner and lighter, and more of a commodity product that can often be sourced from a different supplier than the hollow metal frames. Fire-resistives are thicker and heavy, and supplied as a system—frame and glass—from a single manufacturer.”

The fire-rated glazing market can be a challenging one to navigate. Suppliers continue to push the envelope of what solutions are possible, and codes are consistently being updated, along with adoption and enforcement.

Suppliers recommend that architects seek assistance from fire-rated glazing partners early and often. “To address misconceptions, we stress the importance of involving the manufacturer as early in the design process as possible to avoid issues—design and budget—later on,” says Aluflam’s Cucchi.

Building owners or architects also frequently have questions about the fire rating of a particular application. The rating of a partition or barrier is not determined by the manufacturer but instead by the authority in the building’s jurisdiction. Manufacturers can help provide solutions when given the required specs; however, they are not the ones who can determine if you are meeting code. When selecting a fire-rated product, consider not only the appropriate product for a specific application, but also make sure it will comply with local codes. After you determine which product is most functional, from this category you can determine which will be the most aesthetically pleasing in the application.

Several fire-rated glazing suppliers also offer continuing education opportunities to address market trends, and common questions and concerns.

Fire-Rated Glazing Products Do More Than Protect

These days, fire-rated glazing products do more than protect. Thanks to market demand, the glass industry has developed solutions that satisfy multiple needs, from daylighting to thermal performance to aesthetics. There are many popular trends that have emerged over the years, thanks to the technological developments that have made glass a more viable product for exterior and interior walls.

Fire-rated glass oftentimes needs to support structural loads while also blocking flames, smoke, and heat from fires. But what about also providing additional security against intruders or burglaries? Glass that is multifunctional can provide a high level of fire and life safety while also offering bullet resistance, blast resistance, and resistance against intruders or forced entry. Glass products that can meet these safety and security needs, while also providing an aesthetically pleasing facade, are trending. And this trend does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Added security often means adding extra layers or additional materials to glass to make it more durable. Fire-rated glass and security glass is often thicker than standard glass, which can make it really heavy, thus making doors harder to open. To accommodate this, architects and builders must specify upgraded hinges and hardware. Some door manufacturers are looking for lighter-weight options to help this challenge. One solution is fire-rated glass ceramics, which have a lower density than regular soda lime glass. Fire-rated glass ceramic products are trending in doors and other applications where the wall or window needs to move.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in June 2020