Volume 9, Issue 4                                      July/August  2005

A STRONG ATTACHMENT

Why Attachment Systems are Important and
What the Industry Needs to Know
by Brigid O'Leary

Daylight applied film performed surprisingly well. That finding came up several times at the Protective Glazing Council’s Spring Meeting in March 2005, though it always carried the caveat: it will perform much better with attachments. (see Window Film vs. Windstorms, Window Film magazine May/June 2005, pg. 26-30.) Whether it is a mechanical system fastened into the window frames or a wet glaze system that attaches the film to the window frame using sealant, an attachment system anchoring the film to the frame can enhance the protection offered by window film.

By retaining broken glass and preventing it from entering an interior and causing injuries, window film helps protect building occupants against a myriad of circumstances, from smash-and-grab crime to severe weather and bomb blast. 

The Importance of Being Attached
To ensure that window film protects a building’s occupants, attachment systems can be-and often are-employed. These attachment systems are a critical part of infrastructure. Attachments are “extremely important,” said Paul Poirier, inventor of the Frame/Lok attachment system and president of View Plus Window Films in Kelowna, Canada.

“It works in conjunction with window film; it’s a crucial piece of apparatus to maintain full integrity of the glass in the event of forces of mother nature in accidental situations such as if you’re barbecuing and your propane bottle blows up, and it buys an individual some more time when a perpetrator tries to penetrate a place of business or home,” Poirier said.

Others echo Poirier’s thoughts as well. Steve Sabac has also made a name for himself and his attachment system, Window Lock-and has strong opinions as to the importance of attachment systems and the role they play in protecting people.

“Window film with no anchors on tempered glass is just useless. Without anchoring, you can’t pass hurricane-testing protocols. Window film reacts differently on plate glass and tempered glass. It probably performs better on plate glass, but the problem is that homes have a mix of glass types and they’re all going to react differently with anchoring systems. Another problem is that no one knows how they are going to react. When you’re dealing with people versus property, the level of the way things are going to perform makes a difference,” Sabac said. 

For Sabac, who is a resident and business owner in Boynton Beach, Fla., protecting against hurricanes is the top priority for his attachment system, but it’s not the only use. Installations he has performed have also protected against vandalism.

Attachment systems, obviously, are not a single-force protection method; they are used to protect against different scenarios and are often designed to meet special needs. Scott Haddock, president of GlassLock and the current president of the Protective Glazing Council, has been working with-and learning the ins and outs of-attachment systems for nearly 15 years. Haddock can attest to their importance in a different manner.

“The most important thing we’ve learned over the years doing film and attachments, is that we need to be looking beyond just what film and a frame will do. That has become very critical to know about the anchorage and supporting wall system, what they are able to do. It’s more than just putting film and an attachment on. You’ve got to go well beyond that. [Attachments] are important in terms of the window system ... if it will allow you to be able to install an attachment. What it dose is helps to ensure the infill-the glass and film-will stay in the frame when subjected to outside forces, due to seismic inplane racking, cyclic loading such as you would get with a windstorm or dynamic loading from a bomb blast,” Haddock explained. 

“Certain information comes into play. If you can attach a system, you have to look at the whole window as a system. Not just the glass but also the frames, the anchorage and the supporting structure. What that means is that even though a particular window frame looks like it can receive an attachment, it’s not always the best thing to do if the supporting anchorage and wall system won’t hold up to the attachment system. Sometimes the window, the frame or the anchorage needs to be modified.”

Too Much of a Good Thing
Haddock’s point is one that should not be taken lightly. Sabac saw the aftermath of the four hurricanes that hit Florida last summer as well as the effect each storm had on local businesses, including those whose owners had window film installed either without attachments or with attachments that were not installed correctly.

“What good is [window film] going to do if the whole door is blown out of the tracks?” Sabac asked. “It’s a prime example of why the framing is not strong enough in the house, but what are you going to do? Put shutters on sliders and film on the windows?” 

Of course, as Poirier points out, with a hurricane no one knows what to expect. No one knows what kind of debris will make contact with the window, where or how. 

“From my standpoint, it’s a viable system as a whole, but it does have its limitations,” he said. “It is hard to predict what force a wind will have when a projectile comes directly to the window. We all have to understand that an attachment system is only as good as what is thrown at it. Forces of nature ... gale force winds, the pressure loads are totally throughout the window, but a flying projectile coming at you at a certain rate of speed, it will hit the glass and it will come through. Attachments only [provide] support ... to keep the whole window from coming through.”

In light of the severe storms that pummeled the eastern United States in 2004 and the upcoming hurricane season, that unpredictability that comes with a hurricane may change the future of how attachment systems and the accompanying film is tested and viewed.

“It seems to me when we test safety film we test more for ... unrealistic situations. I think in the future we will be testing and creating better safety films [and attachments] for hurricane protection,” said Victor Brown, sales and marketing manager at Coastal Energy Saver in Wilmington, N.C., whose company provides attachment systems. 
Of course, testing and test results will only be as good as the practical installation.

“You see it all the time, companies installing things that are easy and convenient, when the actual tested way, the way it was meant to be installed is not being followed,” Sabac said.

The fact is, though, that when an attachment system is installed correctly, it will perform. 

“Will an attachment system do anything? Yes. It will do a certain amount, but when a projectile is coming at it, it is hard to predict what it is going to do. That is determined by the film you use,” Poirier added.

Spreading the Word
How does one determine the correct thickness of the film to use with which attachment system or just which attachment system to use on a building? It all comes down to education and training.

“It’s still in the stage of education,” Poirier believes. “Individuals need to understand what the actual systems can and cannot do. It’s a matter of educating the individual and a lot of people don’t understand what a system is all about. It’s like taking an individual back to school to reeducate them on security features of everything and understand the pros and cons and what will work for their environment. All systems are good, but it boils down to “do I need it? Will it work for me, is it right for this circumstance, will it do this or that? There needs to be an understanding of what each system will do in each situation. Not every system will be able to do everything.”

Nor should every system be expected to do everything, and maybe not all tinters should be expected to, either.

“It’s a pretty small percentage of dealers that would know anything about the full-balanced window design system,” Haddock said. “For the average tinter out there who does some level of safety or security film and smash and grab, there isn’t much [questioning] that goes into it other than is there enough of a frame system to attach? They don’t have to worry as much about supporting anchorage for bomb blast and windstorm loading. It’s hard to say for the entire dealer base if getting that deep into the details is that important. It’s a pretty small percentage of dealers that do that sort of thing with attachments” 

They just shouldn’t go assuming that they know enough about it to do those kinds of installations. 

“A basic smash and grab, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but anything beyond that, for seismic, windstorm and blast, they’re not very well trained,” Haddock added, referring to most installation companies. 

However, Sabac feels that at least those tinters who work coastal areas and are selling film as a form of protection should not only install attachment systems but also know how to install them correctly. 

“I’ve seen experienced people who know things about attachment systems build sample windows wrong without even realizing it. It’s a totally different business than just applying window film. I think there are not that many people who really understand the reasons attachments work and don’t work and how they react on different types of windows,” Sabac said. “I’ve seen people attach window film to frames that are removable-the whole window will come out.

There’s a job in Miami, a federal building, where the film is applied and attached to the rubbers pine on all 40 stories.”
Poirier believes only about three percent of the industry is trained correctly on using attachment systems and he, too, has seen his share of gaffes.

“I have found that people are putting attachment systems with a 4 mil film and that doesn’t do anything,” he said. 

Training and educational opportunities doe exist. Brown indicated that his company receives training from the manufacturer whose products they use and Haddock speaks well of industry programs.

“I think as a whole, I know the [International Window Film Association] IWFA has done a pretty good job with their accreditation program and on my end of it, personally, I think they I’ve done a good job of that and when it comes to attachments…” he said. 

“Keep learning on your own,” is Poirier’s advice.

“Do some research. Ask questions. Is it the proper system for my type of window? What sort of qualifications does [the manufacturer of the attachment system] have? What kind of guarantee, warranty do you give with your system? What kind of workmanship? Everything falls into the quality of the installation,” he said.

And while training and certification are important and appropriate installation obligatory, Sabac has one more concern for the industry: proper marketing of the system as a whole. 

“I think just being upfront and honest about the level of protection that is offered is absolutely critical,” he said. “I think dealers themselves should think when talking to a potential customer that it’s their mom or dad. Would you install this on your mom and dad’s house with the thought that they might be staying in the house through a hurricane? I think we can keep the industry from getting a black eye. If a storm comes through and someone gets hurt, it could be detrimental to the industry. Keep it honest, keep it accurate. Who is going to take the fall if a hurricane comes and window film installed or attached incorrectly fails and someone gets hurt?” 

Brigid O’Leary is the editor of Window Film magazine.

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