Volume 10, Issue 1                     January/February  2006


Protecting Growing Concerns

PGC Fall Symposium Revisits Important Topics, Introduces New Concerns

by Brigid O'Leary

Homeland security was on the forefront of discussion at the Protective Glazing Council (PGC) Fall Symposium held at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., on November 10, with much of the morning seminar track focusing on the Homeland Security aspect of protective glazing. 

After a welcome by PGC president Scott Haddock of Glasslock, the seminars got rolling as Steven Smith of the General Service Administration (GSA) discussed the protective glazing requirements necessary to meet the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) security criteria. The criteria is used by the GSA as a guideline for the physical safety and security of Federal buildings. Smith’s presentation also included an early look at emergency ingress-egress for firefighters, a topic that was addressed again in the afternoon session. Both Smith and Nancy Renfroe of Applied Research Associates discussed the obstacles that some protective glazing can present for emergency first-responders and why awareness of what protective measures may be employed on a window system is important. Smith also gave a brief introduction to how the studies into the topic began and the Internet based program that is now available for training, both subjects Renfroe expounded upon in the afternoon session.

Ed Conrath with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Protective Design Center followed Smith, explaining the forthcoming changes to the Standard 10-UFC4-010-01, and proposed changes to ASTM F 2248. UFC 4-010-01 is the Department of Defense antiterrorism standards for buildings and ASTM F 2248 is the standard for specifying an equivalent 3-second duration design loading for blast resistant glazing fabricated with laminated glass.

“We don’t protect buildings, we protect assets,” Conrath said.

New criteria is also being added to UFC 4-023-04: Blast Ballistic and Forced Entry Resistant Windows in the summer of 2006. Conrath extended an open invitation to members of the PGC to participate in the review and offer input for changes. 

Something Old

After a short break, Mignon Anthony and Dave Shatzer, both of the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), gave an update of a curtainwall design being implemented in the department’s newest building. Previous phases of the project’s construction have been presented as case histories at previous PGC symposiums, beginning in 2003. This year’s presentation brought attendees up through the real world testing process applied to the design intended for the project, including video from the actual test. 

Part of the criteria for the project included a catcher system that must return 90 percent of any curtainwall debris for design loading; no more than 10 percent of the weight of the curtainwall glazing can penetrate beyond the catch system for it to be considered successful.

Testing showed that the planned construction worked well for the most part but a camera placed on the inside of the testing unit showed that the cable wires unraveled from the ends, causing system failure of the catch system. Anthony explained that the results caused some design changes that were necessary to produce the safety results required for the building, even though the changes altered the project’s aesthetics slightly.

Something New 

Filling in at the last minute for a speaker who was unable to attend the symposium, Ron Waranowski with Signals Defenses presented a second case study, that looked at the “assessment and upgrades of windows in EPA facilities.” He injected humor into a potentially scary topic—just how vulnerable windows can leave a person or company to electronic eavesdropping on wireless Internet systems and other electronic means, a topic that opened many eyes of audience members. Despite the encrypting and authentication programs available, for someone to use wireless networks (commonly known as WiFi), an energy signal must be available and accessible and those signals on which information is carried are not mutually exclusive. 

He told of doctors in one hospital who were given personal data assistants (PDAs) to speed along visits to patients’ bedsides and allow doctors to access the patient chart via the electronic device. Due to the inherent weaknesses in using such a system, all the confidential patient information “was flying out the window every time one of those doctors pointed the PDA toward a piece of glass.”

Among his slides, Waranowski had one that showed a map of a small section of the District of Columbia. Covering the main streets on the map were red dots and for every red dot, Waranowski explained, Government Accountability Office (GAO) workers who were on a “war drive” test (driving around a city in a car actively trying to pick up WIFI signals and take over the system) were able to not only pick up a wireless Internet user’s signal, but also access the servers that provided the signal. In a 15-block radius, more than 1,000 servers were commandeered.

While there are window films that can help mitigate such a security breach, “there aren’t many solutions on the glass side [yet],” he said

The thickness and density of other building materials such as concrete and wood, Waranowski explained, create barriers for radio waves that glass inherently does not provide; the same properties that make glass a building material coveted by those who desire openness and light also make it possible for radio waves and other energy sources to escape—the same way ultraviolet (UV) rays and sunshine enter through windows. It’s the reason cell phone reception tends to improve around windows when elsewhere in the building reception may be minimal.

There are window films that are designed to block both UV rays and radio waves to help prevent “cyber spying,” and doing so would also reduce cell phone and WiFi reception in buildings. However, the solutions on the market right now require aftermarket implementation.

Something Borrowed

After Waranowski’s presentation, all speakers from the morning session participated in a panel discussion open to audience questions and moderated by Joseph Smith of Applied Research Associates. 

The afternoon sessions included two seminars for which attendees could receive AIA educational credits. Applied Research Associate’s James Brokaw’s presentation was on blast mitigation. He was followed by the emergency ingress/egress of first responders discussion, led this time by Renfroe.

Brokaw took his audience through the basics of blast mitigation and what the typical member of the fenestration industry needs to know about protective glazing. His presentation included videos that prove just how important proper installation is. The video included the warning that, no matter what the sticker says, builders should always ensure that the laminated lite of a window is installed on the inside of the facility.

Renfroe’s “Introduction to Firefighter Forcible Entry for Specialty Window Systems” was the third presentation on the topic in as many symposiums. She introduced the audience to the website created to teach firefighters about different security systems that, if employed, make forcible entry through a window significantly harder than if the window had no such attachment systems. The website, www.oca.gsa.gov, provides learning material by way of video and audio recordings as well as written descriptions of the information and each section includes a quiz at the end. When a firefighter takes the quizzes, if he or she scores more than 80 percent correctly overall, he or she will be issued a certificate of completion.

According to Renfroe, some local fire departments are requiring personnel to take and pass the program.

Rounding out the day was Madico’s Jay Larkin who presented an informational paper for the fenestration industry on protective glazing—making good on his promise to audience members to complete his presentation before rush hour. His presentation was of the introductory sort, with information about what the PGC is and how it came in to existence, the industry associations it comprises, as well as a brief overview of government requirements for protective glazing and building. Larkin then detailed the involvement of the PGC and related industry groups has had in Government standards and specifications (and vice versa), and he quickly reviewed a few examples of design software available to help determine protective glazing needs and specifications. Larkin touched on specific guidelines such as those established by ASTM International (F 1642, F1915 and F2248) and Underwriters Laboratory (UL 752-95 and UL 972) and what products and systems the industry has available to help designers and builders meet these specs. Before concluding his presentation, he also covered product testing and fenestration product certification.

The next PGC symposium is scheduled for March 14-17, 2006, in Chicago. 

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

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