Glazing plays key role in reinventing stairway design

Within the architectural community, a movement called "active design" seeks to convert barren and unappealing stairwells originally conceived as emergency contingencies into well-designed architectural focal points. SPONSORED CONTENT

August 25, 2014 |
Bill O'Keeffe

SuperLite II-XL 60 with Decorative Art Glass in Stainless Steel GPX Framing work together to make this 1-hour stairwell visually appealing and inviting. Architect: RRTL. Glazier: InterClad. Project: St. Cloud University ISELF Building in St. Cloud, Minn.

The advent of the elevator within multi-story buildings helped to relegate stairs from highly visible locations to confined stairwells tucked away and hidden from view.  While the International Building Code requires that interior exit stairways be enclosed, the use of fire rated glass in these spaces can add vision, transparency, light and openness, all of which contribute to an increase in stair use by individuals. 

Within the architectural community, a movement called "active design" seeks to convert barren and unappealing stairwells originally conceived as emergency contingencies into well-designed architectural focal points with transparent, fire resistive glass walls that let in daylight, carry corporate branding and provide safe egress for building occupants to use in an emergency. Today’s fire rated glazing and framing products offer building materials that support design efforts to make stairs more visible, appealing and safe.  

Click here to learn more on how active design is reinventing today’s stairways. 

The benefits of taking the stairs are also well-documented:

• Regular physical activity can help reduce risk for several diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 30 minutes of daily physical activity is key to maintaining overall good health and improving quality of life.

• Contrary to popular belief, stairs can even be more efficient than elevators. Researchers at one Canadian hospital found that when doctors took the stairs instead of the elevator, it saved each an average of 15 minutes out of the workday.

• Individuals spend an estimated two-thirds of their lives at their place of employment, so incorporating physical activity into the daily workday is an effective way to support optimal health. 

• Beyond providing an effective way to cope with job-related stress, climbing just two flights of stairs everyday could result in a loss of about six pounds per year for most individuals. 

• Stair climbing requires eight to nine times more energy expenditure than sitting and about seven times more energy than taking an elevator. You burn about one calorie for every 10 upward steps and one calorie for every 20 steps down. 

• Stair climbing is also a 'green' activity, as the only energy source required is what is stored in our bodies.

These health, productivity and environmental benefits are convincing numerous employers to promote the use of stairs, including the GSA, which encourages employees, tenants and visitors to take the stairs in its more than 8,600 owned and leased federal government buildings. Click here to learn more on how the GSA is taking the lead in promoting stairway use.

So if you’re looking to add visual appeal and safety to the stairwells in your projects, consider incorporating fire rated glass and framing. You can visit as online at to view our products or browse through installed projects for inspiration.  If you have questions on products, design options or budget pricing, call us toll-free at 888.653.3333 and ask to speak with your SAFTI FIRST territory manager. 

Editor's note: This is sponsored content. The text and image were provided by the sponsor company.

Bill O'Keeffe | Clear on Technical Glass
SAFTI FIRST Fire Rated Glazing Solutions

About the Author: Bill O’Keeffe is the President and CEO of SAFTI FIRST Fire Rated Glazing Solutions, a leading USA-manufacturer of advanced fire rated glass and framing systems.  An industry veteran and innovator with over 45 years of experience in architectural glazing, he was first to introduce and manufacture clear, fire resistive glazing products in the US.  He is also a safety advocate who exposed the dangers of traditional wired glass, which lead to code changes and fire rated glass products that are safe, affordable and clear alternatives to traditional wired glass.  Today, Bill continues to develop building products that enable architects to create beautiful, safe and energy-efficient spaces with advanced glazing systems.

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