Volume 43, Issue 7 - July 2008
Codes & Regulations
ICC Code Technology Committee to Research Fire-Rated Glass Labels
While some of the testimony from the audience urged the CTC to create a committee to address the use of a new marking system for fire-resistant and fire protection glazing, others noted that research into an effective system currently is being conducted by both the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC) and the Americas Glass Association’s (AGA) Fire Safety Glazing Council (FSGC).
“From my standpoint, this is an intra-industry issue that should be worked out,” said Thom Zaremba, representing Pilkington North America (a fire-rated glazing manufacturer that currently offers a marking system). “There’s a marking system in place now, that’s been in use by a number of the primary manufacturers of fire-rated windows, doors, etc. Underwriter Laboratories (UL) has adopted it and is currently using it … The change, I think, would be a serious mistake.”
However, Harold Hicks of Atlantic Code Consultants, representing the AGA, commented that while the industry associations are working to address the issue of labeling, “When you allow the manufacturers to determine what the public should know, you’re going to get into a situation that the public is going to know what you want them to know.”
Hicks urged the CTC to take the issue under their consideration, taking the issue of labeling out of the glass industry’s hands.
“This is a major issue and it’s not about protecting manufacturers,” he said. “It’s about what do we want the consumer to know, how do we want the consumer to be protected by the products that are coming out … and how do we make it available to them?”
According to Kate Steel, representing the FSGC, “The industry is not the place where we need the input.” Steel also urged the CTC to set up a committee that addresses all interested parties, including end users and code officials.
Yet, as a representative from the fire safety committee pointed out, the CTC does not know the state of what is being discussed within the industry currently. “We’re not at the GANA meeting, we’re not at the NFPA committees, so basically we see consultants battling about which one’s better. We have no idea.”
What they do know is that the issue of labeling has been brought repeatedly before the ICC. The ICC voted down a proposal at the code hearings in February that would have given fire-resistance rated glazing tested in accordance with ASTM E119 an “R” rating and fire-protection rated glazing, tested in accordance with NFPA 252 or 257 a “P” rating, rather than labeling the product according to where it should be installed. The proposed labeling system also would have allowed for the use of products that have not undergone a hose stream test.
“We’ve been hearing very similar versions of these code changes for three or four cycles,” commented Bill Koffel, a consultant to the Glazing Industry Code Committee (GICC), who attended the meeting as an observer. “Yes, I think it needs to be studied.” He did not mention who should do that studying, though, having already pointed out that GICC brought the issue before GANA to address, as “every major player of the fire-rated glazing industry is a member of GANA.”
One of the reasons this issue has been brought forth time and again, and is the source of such confusion, is that the labeling system in use allegedly is a source of confusion to end-users.
“Building and fire officials don’t want to stand up in light and testify that they’re confused by this because it’s an embarrassing situation,” Hicks said.
He added that he has seen instances of misuse of products by architects. His advice to those parties? “When in doubt, use a wall,” Hicks said. “Drywall and masonry are a lot better … because you don’t have to debate about it.”
In addition, the existing labeling system is still a topic of debate within the glass industry.
According to Zaremba, “The votes have been overwhelming … to support the existing system.” Yet the issue continues to surface at code hearings.
Zaremba noted that there is a product in the marketplace that is not subjected to the hose stream test and is listed by one test house for 45 minutes; yet the most this product could be rated for is 20 minutes per the host stream test requirements of the current code. As a result, Zaremba said, the motion to alter the marking system continually is brought before ICC during the code hearings.
Hicks countered, “Having a label that allows us to use alternative products is a good thing, I think.”
Koffel commented that GICC remained silent during the decision process on what type of labeling system to adopt, so long as one is adopted. Since the current system has become a part of the fire safety code, Koffel says, GICC has supported it because it was “able to make some modifications …”
For instance, he explained, NFPA 80-26 requires an additional marking for certain glass products. With this “tweak,” Koffel explained, fire-rated products that aren’t tested to the hose steam test are marked—but they have an additional marking “that says we did something different to this.”
From Koffel’s perspective, the labeling system is clear, but the code could be refined further.
Ultimately, the only point of agreement was that further research is needed into this labeling system, and the CTC agreed to take on that task, in addition to those industry groups investigating the issue. Should the board vote to approve this, a few members of the committee will work with any interested parties to develop a solution for a future code cycle.
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