Fire-rated glass is unique. Architects and specifiers may choose a specific, clear glass because they like the way it looks or want to allow light into a particular space, but this is not the same with fire-rated glazing. The primary purpose of fire-rated glass is to contain and slow the spread of fire, allowing occupants to exit safely. So, if you want to use glass in certain locations—a stairwell, for example—codes require the use of fire-rated glass. Decades ago, these options were limited, and glass was used minimally. Today, fire-rated products are used in large openings and with various added aesthetic and performance benefits. These added benefits have also helped increase the opportunities for fire-rated glazing in schools and other educational facilities, providing safety and security, natural light, and many other benefits.

Staying Safe

December 2022 will mark ten years since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. There were many questions around school security following that tragic event. While early discussions considered whether schools should have bullet-resistant glass, the focus soon shifted to delaying entry and understanding that buying more time to respond was the key.

“It’s no longer a simple matter of providing fire protection or impact-safety protection. Firms face the challenge of providing forced-entry resistance to enable lockdown protocols and meet other security safeguards at a time when there are no established educational occupancy code requirements to help govern the process,” says David Vermeulen, North American sales director with Technical Glass Products based in Snoqualmie, Wash. “Task groups, school boards, manufacturers and security consultants are working hard to put uniform policies and tools in place. However, without official standards guiding usage, more [people] in the field are taking on the responsibility of understanding how to specify systems and access points. This ensures they meet life safety and security needs—now and in the future.”

He adds this isn’t an easy task, especially in areas subject to fire-rated requirements.

“The desire for enhanced security does not remove the requirement to meet fire- and life-safety codes. This has understandably sparked demand for multifunctional systems, meaning products that address performance requirements. But creating these systems is not as easy as simply marrying a fire-rated product with a forced-entry product or ballistic-rated product. These products all perform very differently and are tested to different criteria. When combined, it’s important to demonstrate that the products do not fail in either test protocol.”

The information is excerpted from the feature titled, “Beyond the Basics.” To read the full article in the April 2021 issue of USGlass magazine, click here. To sign up to receive USGlass magazine free of charge, click here.