Volume 36, Issue 4, April 2001


Fire-Rated Forum

Architects and Glaziers Heat Up Discussions of Fire-Rated Issues

FIRE1

 
For the past several years, the fire-rated glass industry has been undergoing rapid change. New products are emerging, codes are changing and design requirements are increasing. While this transformation has had many benefits, the speed of change has made it challenging for industry professionals to keep pace with the developments. Yet with so much at stake in terms of life safety and potential liability, it is clearly essential to be well-informed.

Technical Glass Products recently hosted the first online forum regarding fire-rated glazing issues. They wanted to hear from architects and glaziers to get a pulse on the state of the industry. They also wanted to hear how perspectives might differ regarding the role of the architect and the glazier in the product selection process.

Question: There have been a number of new and innovative materials introduced to the fire-rated glass market over the last few years. What do you feel is the market’s current awareness and understanding of the options? On a personal level, do you feel you have a solid grasp on what glass, framing and door options are available to you?

Glazier 1: There are numerous items that I am not aware of. I could use more information.

Architect 1: Yes, I agree that there are new and innovative materials being introduced to the fire-rated glass market industry but there are still a lot of questions lurking. On a personal level, I believe I have a lot more to learn about fire-rated glass systems. Another concern would be cost of [wireless] fire-rated glass vs. wired glass.

Architect 2: I don’t think there is enough information out there. It is usually hard to find.

Architect 3: I recently changed firms, from one in the Northeast to one in the Southeast. The firm in the Northeast used [wireless] fire-rated glass regularly in order to upgrade appearances of interior-glazed partitions. My firm in the Southeast does not appear to be aware of these products. I am aware they can be used in lieu of wired glass and to increase the amounts of glass, but I am confused about the installation and detailing required.

Architect 4: There are many new [wireless] products available, and I do not feel I know enough about them to confidently recommend them to clients accustomed to the more traditional products.

Glazier 2: From a personal standpoint, we tend to get so busy and overwhelmed with immediate project deadlines that we use what we already know and feel comfortable with.

Glazier 3:
I do not have an accurate guide or instructions that direct the application of these [new] products. Different cities and counties have different interpretations of the codes.

Architect 6: Fire-rated glazing products are fairly well-publicized. I have had some current research on them for a project which used both view lites and sidelites at door openings in the common egress hall. The information I found on fire glazing was well-developed and seemed to cover the subject thoroughly.

Architect 5: I have had some problems getting good technical information.

Question: There seems to be a general consensus that more information is needed. So where do you typically turn for information regarding fire-rated glazing? Do you rely on manufacturers’ literature, calling your local glass distributor, product directories, magazine articles, etc.?

Glazier 1: I rely on the suppliers to give me information on their products. When something new comes out, I will call the supplier to get information about the product. I rely on their expertise in all aspects concerning fire-rated products and applications.

Architect 2: I look at our product library in the office or go to the Internet.

Architect 4: Typically, I research new materials through product literature, then consult with the manufacturer’s rep to confirm product selection.

Architect 6: I usually start by looking through manufacturer notebooks if I have any specific to a certain product line. Then I turn to Sweets in both book and CD software form. If no products are found to satisfy the problem, then I go to the Internet and search Sweets online or ARCAT. Sometimes I have a company in mind and just go to its website. The Internet has opened up a huge amount of information for our use.

Question: This raises a good point. How much do you rely on the Internet for your product information about fire-rated glass?

Architect 4: I’ve just started to use the Internet to research materials, and find that many websites do not have complete information. It is usually a helpful starting point, but I typically end up calling manufacturers or reps anyway for immediate dialogue.

Question: Is the Web proving as useful to those of you on the glass side?

Glazier 2:
While I do not rely on the Internet as a sole means of info, I believe it is rapidly approaching the top as the best means of communication. If someone could create “industry-specific” search engines, doing a website search might be more fruitful than now when you enter a key phrase and get 312,774 possible sites! Pointless!

Glazier 1
: I am using the website quite often to find products and information. Glasslinks.com is a very good resource for the glass industry. I request pricing and information from not only suppliers, but also contractors via
e-mail.

TGP: As little as two years ago, most architects and glaziers were still not utilizing the web on a regular basis for finding product information. But today, the web is definitely the preferred method. It puts the material in your hands instantly, and it is available around the clock, so no matter when you need it, you can access it. The glass industry has been a little slower to embrace that new technology, but judging from the activity on our own site, fireglass.com, it appears that more and more glaziers are relying on the Internet for quoting, fact-finding, etc.

Question: Let’s switch gears for a moment and discuss matters of liability. Imagine the following scenario: A fire-rated glass product is specified and installed on a project. A few months after completion of the project, a fire breaks out and the entire building burns to the ground. In the course of the fire inspection, it is discovered that the glass used did not meet code requirements, and that if it had, it could have helped contain the fire, which would have greatly reduced the amount of damage. As the owner begins to prepare a lawsuit, who do you think will be held responsible? Is it the architect’s fault for selecting the wrong product, the glazier’s fault for not questioning the spec or the code official who allowed the incorrect product to be installed?

Architect 2: All three need to be concerned about this oversight. Who is actually liable is a hard question.

Architect 3: I think the architect bears ultimate responsibility for a product no matter what the manufacturer claims.

Glazier 2: My first thought is the architect ought to be held responsible; however, that is open to interpretation. Ideally, the architect is the individual whose responsibility is to do thorough and comprehensive code research specifically to avoid situations like this. Certainly, the architect should
be questioned, but with no more focus on fault than the glazing contractor and definitely the local authority having
jurisdiction.

Architect 6: The first step would be to investigate the installation. The glazier’s understanding of the product would have to be questioned, but the architect’s understanding of the spec should be researched as well. We are often the first ones approached for responsibility, and the organization of response does indeed become our charge. We are also the prime coordinators and authority on the construction end of the process. I believe the architect should step forward first to volunteer our service in organizing and researching the product in question. We should not, however, be assumed to be at blame. If any party in this scenario had suspected or discovered that this product was not fit for the intended purpose, then they should have documented and passed this information on to all parties who needed to be involved in creating a solution.

Question: What if you, as a glass professional, suspected (or knew) that the specified product did not meet building code requirements?

Glazier 1: As a glazier, I would definitely question the specifications if I felt the product was not correct.

TGP: That’s encouraging to hear. All too often, we have discussions with others in the glass industry who say, “It’s not my responsibility—I’m just giving the architects what they asked for.”

Question: What do you architects expect from your glazing contractors? Are you primarily looking for someone to quote exactly what is specified, or do you want someone to look for red flags and make product recommendations that might better suit the project or meet building code requirements?

Architect 4: I expect the glazing contractor to price the drawings and specifications as presented. Suggestions regarding alternate materials are appreciated if accompanied with detailed information regarding performance and cost in relation to the specified material.

Architect 6: I want my glazing contractor to be watchful. I want to work with sub and general contractors who are truly concerned about producing a quality project. If the glazing contractor has a better product (for an application), I would welcome the chance to explore this product and see if it measures up as stated. I would require that the glazing contractor provide me with full product information to prove that the product is equal to or exceeds the specified product. If it panned out, then I would have no reserve about changing to his or her recommendation. They are out installing and repairing this stuff all the time. They have the first hand experience of seeing what works in the field and what doesn’t.

Glazier 1: As a glazing estimator, I will always quote what is specified, but would also give alternate pricing on products that would also meet the architect’s request.

TGP: We’re always reminding glaziers that architects consider them to be the glass experts. Glazing contractors solidify their position with architects and general contractors by filling that role, staying current on fire-rated glazing options, codes, etc. The more expertise the glass shops can offer to architects, the better.

Special thanks to our participants: Dave Courturier, Eastside Glass; Melet Santos, Taniguchi Ruth Architects; Herb South, Ryan’s All Glass; Suzanne Carlson, Minrou Yamasaki Associates; Heather Hargesheimer, Mithun Partners Inc.; Nelson Kraschel, Curries; Martha Howitz, Wilkins Wood Mace; Mike Hilboldt, Building Erection Services; Bob Davies, Gantt Huberman Architects; and Joe Perkins, Mercer Architectural Services. Moderated by Jerry Razwick, president of Technical Glass Products.