Using fire-rated glass in exterior applications

Fire-rated glazing and framing assemblies are just as beneficial on building exteriors as they are on the inside. But knowing how to select the correct fire-rated glass for exterior applications can be confusing. SPONSORED CONTENT

May 20, 2014 |
Bill O'Keeffe

2-hour Fire Resistive CW Framing System from SAFTI FIRST at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Architect: Ennead. Glazing Contractor: W&W Glass, LLC

Fire-rated glazing and framing assemblies are just as beneficial on building exteriors as they are on the inside. But knowing how to select the correct fire-rated glass for exterior applications can be confusing. 

The fire resistance rating for exterior walls—which ranges from no required rating to 3 hours—is based on construction type, occupancy and fire separation distance as defined in Section 6 of the International Building Code. Exterior walls generally have a rating based solely on interior occupancy use and structural requirements. Exterior walls that are 10 feet or less from the property line, however, are required to have a fire resistance rating based on the proximity to adjacent buildings and interior occupancy conditions. The 2009 IBC increased this distance from five to 10 feet.

An exterior wall may or may not be allowed to have windows or doors depending on the fire separation distance. When allowed, the codes distinguish between openings that are “protected” (fire-rated doors, windows, shutters) and “unprotected” (no fire rating).

Learn more about the IBC and selecting fire-rated glass for exterior openings.

Key considerations for exterior applications of fire-rated glass are the same as with any exterior glass application:

Heat gains and losses

Visual requirements (privacy, glare, view)

Shading and sun control

Thermal comfort

Condensation control

Ultraviolet control

Acoustic control

Color effects


Energy requirements

Ultimately, the optimum choice of window and glazing systems will depend on many factors, including the building use type, local climate, utility rates and building orientation.

Learn more about specifying windows and glazing from the Whole Building Design Guide.

Here are some recent applications of exterior fire-rated glass exterior applications:

Buildings close to property lines

Sapphire Towers in San Diego features large glazed areas and deep balconies facing the ocean. The building’s south facing elevation is close to the property line, mandating that openings have a minimum fire protection of 45 minutes. SAFTI FIRST provided Superlite II-XL 45 IGU in GPX framing on all 32 floors. Read more.

Dynamic curtain wall testing

For The Kensington in Boston, all glazed assemblies used in the building’s exterior skin had to pass rigorous dynamic curtain wall testing – and the fire rated section of the curtain wall was no exception.  SAFTI FIRST’s CW Framing system not only passed the dynamic tests replicating real world conditions, but was able meet thermal requirements as well.  Read more.

Hurricane-prone areas

The Las Olas Beach Club and Condominium project in Fort Lauderdale features extensive exterior glazing to ensure views. For the individual units, SAFTI FIRST provided the first tested and listed fire resistive and hurricane rated system for 76 door assemblies using hurricane-rated SuperLite II-XL 60 and SAFTIfire Hurricane doors. In the lobby area, SAFTI FIRST provided a two-hour window/wall using hurricane-rated SuperLite II-XL 120 in SAFTIfire Hurricane framing. Read more. 

Areas leading to parking garages

A two-hour curtain wall installed at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City is near a parking garage. SAFTI FIRST provided SuperLite II XL-120 IGU in CW framing.

Buildings in wildlife-prone areas

For the Serra Mesa library in San Diego County, SAFTI FIRST provided SuperLite II-XL 60 IGU in GPX framing, combining maximum light and vision with life and property protection.

See more fire rated glass and framing installations in different applications.

Editor's Note: This is sponsored content. All text and images 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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