Fire resistive glazing systems provide architects, owners and envelope consultants assurance of documented performance

It may look like a regular window, but these advanced fire resistive glazing systems are recognized in the code as transparent walls because of its ability to block smoke, flames and significantly limit the passage of dangerous radiant heat.

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March 22, 2017 |
Bill O'Keeffe

GPX Hurricane with FL Product Approval was used in the new VA Medical Center in Orlando, FL.  Architect: RLF Architects.  Glazier: Harmon Inc. Photo Credit:  SAFTI FIRST

This month, Architect’s Guide to Glass called exterior applications of fire rated glazing as the “the new hot spot,” due to the steady increase of fire rated glass being used in the building envelope. Today, we see exterior fire rated glazing going beyond punched openings and into fully engineered curtain wall systems with the advent of ASTM E-119 rated fire resistive glass and framing systems. It may look like a regular window, but these advanced fire resistive glazing systems are recognized in the code as transparent walls because of its ability to block smoke, flames and significantly limit the passage of dangerous radiant heat. 

Resistive fire protection and protective fire protection are often confused and thought to be the same. However, protective fire protection is mostly limited to 45 minutes or less and are made up of monolithic gazing such as ceramic , wired or highly tempered that do not stop the radiant heat component of a fire. This is why ASTM E-119 rated fire resistive glazing systems can be used in exterior applications where fire protective openings are either limited in size or not permitted in Table 705.8 in the 2012 and 2015 IBC.

While exterior fire resistive glazing systems perform a specific life safety function, it is still expected to prevent air and water from entering the building. Static curtain wall testing performed in a chamber is one way to determine a product’s ability to perform. However, the information gathered from this test is limited, which is why dynamic curtain wall testing is preferred by owners, architects and building envelope consultants.  Dynamic curtain wall testing is designed to duplicate real world conditions. It is much more stringent and difficult to pass, but it is a more reliable indicator.  

In 2012, Architectural Testing Inc. (ATI), an independent laboratory, tested our 2-hour, fire resistive GPX Curtain Wall System to ASTM E284-04 (Rate of Air Leakage Through Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls and Doors), ASTM E331-00 (Standard Test Method for Metal Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference) and AAMA 501.1-05 (Standard Test Method for Metal Curtain Walls for Water Penetration Using Dynamic Pressure).  The GPX Curtain Wall system passed all of these tests, providing designers with documented performance of the system being air and water tight. 

In addition to air and water testing, the GPX Curtain Wall System was also tested to and successfully passed AAMA 501.4-09 (Recommended Static Test Method for Evaluating Curtain Wall and Storefront Systems Subjected to Seismic and Wind Induced Interstory Drifts), ASTM E330-02 (Structural Performance of Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference), Interstory Vertical Displacement Test, Thermal Cycling and Condensation Evaluation. 

To take documented performance against air and water infiltration to the extreme, our exterior fire resistive systems have also been tested to hurricane glazing standards.  In 2006, we became the first fire rated glazing manufacturer to have a listed fire resistive, hurricane rated glazed wall and door assembly that passed TAS 201 (Large Missile Impact), TAS 202 (Air and Water Infiltration) and TAS 203 (Cyclic Wind Loading). Today, the GPX Hurricane System is UL Certified for Wind Resistant Building Components (UL listing R25144); has complete Florida Product Approvals for walls (FL 16382) and doors (FL 16888) and complies with High Velocity Hurricane Zone testing requirements; and most recently, now listed with the Texas Department of Insurance for curtain walls and storefront systems (CWF-50) and doors (DR-798) for use in Inland I and Seaward Zones.  

Dynamic curtain wall testing and hurricane listings are just some of the ways that today’s fire resistive glazing systems have evolved into a multi-tasking building product that combines vision and fire protection with various performance and aesthetic requirements.  As architects continue to demand more from fire rated glazing systems, SAFTI FIRST will continue provide innovative products – just like we’ve done for over 35 years. 

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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