Layers of Protection: Multifunctional Glazing Provides Levels of Security

By Ellen Rogers

Just as conventional glass can do more than provide a view to the outside, today’s fire-rated glazing is being called upon to do more than just resist fires. As Kevin Norcross, general manager of Vetrotech Saint-Gobain North America explains, this multifunctionality refers to a group of products, such as fire-rated glazing, that combine safety and security measures, such as hurricane impact-resistance or school security features. And it’s the latter, Norcross says, that’s seeing a surge of awareness and focus.

“The industry is coming together and trying to address this vital need,” he says, pointing out that several different companies offer products designed for school security. His company’s is called Keralite SafeGuard and is used in school applications, among others, where there is a need to combine fire protection and security.

“This is one time we don’t need to worry about who’s going to benefit from
whose product being used,” he says.

David Vermeulen, national sales manager for Technical Glass Products (TGP), agrees. “Recent school tragedies have reinforced the importance of security glazing in life safety protection plans and brought about a renewed interest in fire-rated glazing products that can delay intruders and alert occupants to a potential attack. This, in turn, has led to an increase in fire-rated glass solutions with bullet resistance and forced entry capabilities.”

He says education facilities remain one of the top areas of interest for fire-rated glass with added security capabilities.

“Since glass is a key point of entry for intruders and attackers, there’s been a real emphasis on multifunctional fire-rated glass solutions that help harden and safeguard the perimeter,” says Vermeulen. As a product example, he says Pilkington Pyrostop fire-rated glass laminated to School Guard Glass offers bullet resistance and forced entry attacks when used in compliant doors and frames.

“While these multifaceted products are highly desirable in schools, it’s important to note one of the biggest barriers to use is understanding the requirements being established by the governing bodies. Until mandated by legislation, the bottom line is these products may not be used as often as they should be. As such, it will be important to keep an eye on related code proposals, adoption cycles and enhanced products.”

Norcross adds that efforts currently are underway within ASTM to address this concern. He says there is a group working to develop design guidelines for schools (see News Analysis: Protective Glazing Products).

“We all approach this in a different manner when we’re talking about school safety,” says Norcross “… there is no single specification right now to tell you how to do this. This design guide [will address that need].”

Dan Poling, sales manager of fire-rated glass for Schott, agrees that the largest driver of multifunctionality is within the security glazing segment, particularly in educational sectors. Some examples, he suggests, include active shooter drills and/or fire-drills that are forcing building occupants into lock downs, as well as security and fire safety.

Speaking of other areas of multifunctionality, Vermeulen also is seeing increased use of fire-rated glass in exterior applications.

“As cities grow denser and buildings sit closer together, we’re also seeing fire-rated glazing products used more frequently to provide lot line protection and meet exterior cladding performance criteria,” he says. “This includes air and water penetration resistance, wind load deflection requirements, thermal performance and, depending on location, supplemental protection measures like hurricane resistance.”

And this trend toward multifunctionality is one everyone seems to think will grow.

“Building designs are becoming increasingly complex, and industry professionals are looking for realistic, quality, fire-rated glazing products that make it possible for them to do more with less,” says Vermeulen. “Products that offer a range of performance and design benefits can go a long way toward supporting what the building team
wants to accomplish.”

Norcross agrees, especially given so much focus moving toward security.

“I think security and life safety are becoming a bigger part of the design team thought-process. Ten years ago clear fire-rated glass was an expense; today it’s commonplace,” he says, adding that while schools remain the most requested applications, these products are being used in others as well. One such example is an office building where there’s a need to protect high-level executives.

“It’s not just schools; this is becoming more and more prevalent and owners are understanding the need beyond basic life safety requirement, and are taking it to another level. They’re understanding the need for protection.”

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