Schools Focus on Glass after Parkland Shooting

As a result of tragedies such as those that occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., some school administrators and parents look at glass as a possible protector from unforeseen gun violence.

In many parts of Florida hurricane-resistant glass is required. And it’s this type of glazing that’s thought to have saved lives during the Parkland shooting, which left 17 people dead. According to CBS New York, “investigators believe 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz tried to make a sniper’s nest by shooting out a window in a third-floor stairwell. He fired 16 rounds into the glass, but the hurricane-proof [sic] material didn’t shatter.”

The School Board of Broward County has adopted the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Schools criteria. Educational buildings must also meet the latest editions of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the Florida Fire Prevention Code.

According to the county school board, windows must meet all the requirements for wind and impact resistance in the FBC for the High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) and required product Notice of Acceptance (NOA). The requirements specify low-E, impact-resistant glass that can resist wind velocity pressures listed in the FBC. The glazing must be made of tempered glass, laminated glass or accepted glass block. The windows must also provide security to prevent intruder access.

Additionally, impact-resistant glass is required at all doors where push bar exit devices cross the glazing.

Jeff Rigot, a North American sales representative with Viracon Architectural Glass, recently addressed bullet protection for a Florida school.

“Just [Wednesday] I had my first architect inquiry post the recent school shooting tragedy regarding the ability of hurricane-resistant glass to provide some level of bullet protection. This inquiry was for a public school project in the Panhandle. Basic hurricane-resistant laminated glass does not provide any bullet resistance, but it could if need be. What it does provide is UL972 physical assault protection. Hurricane-resistant glass or storm shutter protection is required for all exterior window openings on Florida commercial/residential buildings where the wind speed is 140 mph and greater or 130 mph within one mile from the coast,” he said. “I am sure there will be more inquiries regarding providing bullet resistance along with hurricane resistance for the building envelope … it can be done but with significant cost premiums and time delay to test/register products for both.”

Rigot also explained that hurricane laminated glass and framing systems could be designed and engineered to provide bullet resistance by incorporating glass-clad polycarbonate infill panels into a bullet-resistant-rated steel framing system.

“The combined assembly would also have to be tested and certified for hurricane resistance. The technology is readily available but the cost of the system and the testing is significant. Until the there is a demand, this will remain a ‘one off’ product,” he said.

News reports show that schools across the country are looking at ways to make their students safer. One school district in Rhode Island has formed a special security subcommittee and already plans to install a reinforced glass window at one high school for visitors to speak to a security officer through before being buzzed in.

According to a USA Today article, School Guard Glass began selling intruder-resistant glass after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, which killed 26 people including 20 students. The company’s product prevents a gunman from getting inside for at least four minutes. School Guard Glass’ sales jumped from 50 schools in 2014 to nearly 400 schools last year according to the article.

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