Sapphire Towers is a luxury condominium in San Diego that affords residents views of the bay. However, code regulations require the building's south façade to be solid or have openings with a minimum fire protection.
May 18, 2011


Comments on: "San Diego condominiums provide panoramic views despite strict code regulations"


Fire rated glass and framing

Fire rated glass and framing technology today has come a very long way, and there are systems that can meet the design and code requirements of the application so architects and building owners would not have to overlook or make sacrifices in either design or performance. 

The GPX framing supplied here is not a traditional aluminum system.  It is a listed and labeled fire resistive, temperature rise system with aluminum cladding.  So it may resemble the look of aluminum (which was a design requirement), but unlike traditional aluminum frames, it will not melt or warp under severe fire conditions up to 2 hours. 

Concern for moisture control is legitimate, especially since these rated windows are in the exterior of the building.  This is why additional independent testing was performed on the SuperLite II-XL/GPX system for air and water infiltration:  ASTM E 283-04, ASTM E 547 and ASTM E 331.   The SuperLite II-XL/GPX system was unitized in our facility, delivered to the site and installed just like the conventional rainscreen system to which it is adjacent.  The insulating element in our framing is designed for exterior applications and is treated for exposure to water.  

An expanded version of this story can be found at

Fire rated glazing systems

As a builder and remodeler who has encountered close proximty construction and using fire rated glass assemblies, I find the use of aluminum framing for set glazing a self defeating encounter. Aluminum burns,melts,warps under severe fire conditions. This can cause failure of the entire system and present an even more dangerous condition for those called to fight the fire. Heavy materials falling out of distorted opening present extreme hazards for anyone below. Additionally, the transmittal of inside/outside conditions are a cause for concern as well. Moisture has been noted in many a building system failures. As engineers come up with ways to control just this type of failures ,the fire rating system are often over-looked in favor of preventative measures to eliminate or control moisture and condensation and heat transfer. Interestingly, Materials used in packing openings for a snug fit are often non-rated materials. It will be interesting to come back to this building in say, 15 years to look at the overall preformance of this system