Schools Earn High Marks When It Comes to Enhanced Learning

By Ellen Rogers

Educational facility designs continue to evolve to meet the need to provide bright, comfortable spaces that are also safe. Architects are using glazing products in exterior and interior settings to bring natural lighting deep into the buildings. These applications help enhance learning, improve energy performance, and keep occupants safe.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to execute both security and fire-rated protection in educational sector design,” says Chad Snyder, director of security products and senior specification consultant for McGrory Glass. “Schools also prioritize a welcoming space, conducive to staff and student learning, with flexible privacy options. You don’t want a school to look like a jail cell.”

Snyder says his company gets calls about protective glazing after every school tragedy. “Our primary initial concern is ensuring security needs are met adequately, even if it’s not with a product we provide,” he says. “Cameras, door jammers, early detection, open sightlines—all help delay and deter the threat. While security glazing isn’t a cure-all, it can help support wider efforts and provide an effective barrier to attack. Any delay is crucial and can help save lives.”

From K-12 to higher education, glass products can help give schools a unique aesthetic combined with various other performance features. Here’s a look at a few recent installations our readers shared with us.

Roux Center for the Environment
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine

Architect: Cambridge Seven Associates (C7A)
Contract Glazier: O&P Glass, Augusta, Maine
Glazing Supplier: Technical Glass Products

Built to meet LEED Platinum requirements, the Roux Center for the Environment at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, also provides fire and life safety for students and faculty. Ensuring safe egress for students and faculty in the event of a fire, the exterior façade exit stairwell features Technical Glass Products Fireframes SG Curtainwall Series with Pilkington Pyrostop glass firewall.

Design considerations were also important, so the fire-rated curtainwall resembles the glass along the structure’s main entrance, creating a uniform appearance. Its toggle retention system helps achieve clean sightlines that match the seamless aesthetic of the neighboring silicone-glazed curtainwall system. The large lites of glass bring ample daylight into the exit stairwell, helping to increase student and faculty well-being while ticking off LEED daylighting requirements.

Alexander High School Performing Arts Center
Douglasville, Ga.

Architect: Southern A & E
Contract Glazier: FB Glazing Systems, Dahlonega, Ga.
Glazing Supplier: American Insulated Glass (AIG)

Glazing products played a key role in designing the newly built Alexander High School Performing Arts Center in Douglasville, Ga. According to the Douglas County School System, the new performing arts center will help improve students’ arts education and serve as a cultural hub for the community to gather and celebrate the arts.

AIG’s Conley, Ga., facility fabricated the argon-filled insulating glass units using ¼-inch bronze tempered glass on the outboard lite and ¼-inch SunGuard SNX 62/27 coating on surface three on the inboard lite. According to AIG, the glazing provides high-performing solar control ideal for this hot climate.

Milton Elementary School
Milton, Del.

Architect: Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers
Glazing Contractor: Walker & Laberge Company
Glass Fabricator: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®

Colorful Vanceva interlayers from Eastman were fabricated by Oldcastle Building-Envelope® for the renovation of the Milton Elementary School in Milton, Del. Abundant amounts of natural light fill the school’s cafeteria and library thanks to the bright and colorful windows.

The school lobby also features a double entry vestibule for added security.

University of Wisconsin School of Business Learning Commons
Madison, Wis.

Architect: Potter Lawson and MSR
Glazing Contractor: Omni Glass & Paint, Oshkosh, Wis.
Glazing Supplier: SAFTI First

Using fire-rated glazing products in a 1-hour stairwell at the University of Wisconsin School of Business Learning Commons provides vision and transparency, transforming the idea of what stairwells look like traditionally.

Often relegated to the back of the building and usually reserved for emergencies, many stairwells occupy dark spaces and lack vision and transparency. This also makes them a prime spot for attacks.

Clear, fire-rated glazing provided natural surveillance to the university’s stairwell, enhancing security and encouraging everyday use. In addition, the transparent, 1-hour stair-well provided a visual connection between the East and West Halls, which was the architect’s intent. Instead of vertical mullions, the fire-resistive walls feature a clear butt glaze for even more transparency.

McMaster University, Peter George Centre for Living and Learning
Hamilton, Ontario

Architect: Diamond Schmitt
Contract Glazier: TAGG, Burlington, Ontario
Glazing Supplier: Walker Glass, Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®

McMaster University’s Peter George Centre for Living and Learning is the largest building on the Hamilton campus. Architects Diamond Schmitt worked to design a welcoming and comfortable space for students and staff. Those efforts included managing sightlines and daylighting with custom acid-etched glass to create a sense of home and community.

Diamond Schmitt developed two custom halftone dot patterns that are etched onto the first surface of the glass and calibrated to look almost transparent from inside the building. Outside, they appear opaque. While the first surface etched treatment was mainly for human considerations, it has the added benefit of deterring bird strikes.

Buddy and Joni Minett Elementary School
Frisco, Texas

Architect: Stantec
Glazier: Royal Glass Company, Denton, Texas
Glazing Supplier: Ballistic Glass and Armor Solutions

Keeping kids safe was a top priority of the newly built Buddy and Joni Minett
Elementary School in Frisco, Texas. Designed by Stantec’s Dallas operations and completed in 2022, the school features SchoolSafe Premium from Ballistic Glass and Armor Solutions. The company says the glazing is engineered to be forced-entry resistant and to withstand extensive physical abuse. According to the company, the glazing meets ASTM F1233, Standard Test Method for Security Glazing Materials and Systems, and passed UL Ballistic Resistance Level 1.

Installed by Royal Glass Company, the glass is 9/16 inches overall and went into a US Aluminum storefront system.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Architect: T&M Associates
Contract Glazier/Glazing Supplier:
Total Security Solutions Inc., Fowlerville, Mich.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, like many school districts, was concerned about gun violence. One of the oldest Catholic school systems in the country, the Archdiocese operates 15 high schools in the Philadelphia area, and each school has a period-distinct design style. To help secure the facilities, Total Security Solutions (TSS) worked closely with the Archdiocese team to design entrance vestibules and transaction windows for each school, starting with Cardinal O’Hara High School. The design complemented the school’s distinctive architecture without disrupting essential systems. Based on their threat level, TSS fabricated the school’s system using UL Level 3 bullet-resistant materials.

Ellen Rogers is the editorial director of USGlass magazine. Email her at and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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