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Fire Rated Glass on Building Exteriors

Fire Rated Glass on building exteriors brings fire, hurricane, impact and security protection, as well as sustainability benefits from daylighting.

For decades, fire rated glass has been used inside buildings to compartmentalize and prevent the spread of fire, providing protection for human life and property. Designers are now discovering that fire rated glazing and framing assemblies are just as beneficial on building exteriors. Use of fire rated glass as an exterior building material can bring a host of additional benefits, such as gaining LEED credits, adding natural light to interior spaces, increased energy conservation, and access to expansive views protected from hurricanes and wildfires.

Possible LEED Credits with Exterior Glazing

The most obvious benefit of using glazing instead of brick or drywall is that glazing provides views of surrounding outdoor spaces and allows natural light to enhance building interiors. Increased natural daylighting has been proven to increase morale and achievement in schools while also reducing energy costs.

The US Green Building Council recognizes the benefits of daylighting and lower energy usage by awarding LEED points for design and materials that maximize both. For example, schools can gain up to three LEED credits for daylighting 75% of interior building spaces (Credit 8.1) and another LEED credit for daylighting 90% of interior spaces (Credit 8.2). And, if the glazing is NFRC rated (National Fenestration Rated Council), it may provide enough energy insulation and energy use savings to qualify for up to 19 LEED points for overall building performance and up to 21 LEED points for commercial interiors (Credit 1). Finally, if the glazing is STL rated (Sound Transmission Loss), schools can gain one more additional LEED credit for enhancing teacher-to-student and student-to-student communication through effective acoustical design.

Buildings Close to Property Lines

Sapphire-tower

High-performance, fire resistive glass products allow designers to use curtain wall systems without concern for code restrictions that limit exterior wall openings and the use of fire protective glass products such as glass ceramics and wired glass.

The IBC restricts exterior openings based on the premise that an owner has no control over what occurs on an adjacent property. So when a property is ten feet or less from the property line, the building exterior must have a fire resistance rating based on the potential threat of fire on both the inside and outside. Designers of Sapphire Towers in San Diego wanted a clean and transparent building with large glazed areas and deep balconies facing the ocean. The building’s south facing elevation was close to the property line mandating that openings have a minimum fire protection of 45 minutes. SAFTIFIRST helped solved this design challenge by providing Superlite II-XL 45 IGU in GPX framing on all 32 floors. The assembly also had to meet additional performance requirements for air infiltration, water penetration, wind load, structural loads, energy efficiency and sound transmission.

Areas Leading to Parking Garages

Parking garages store cars loaded with dangerous fuels. Consequently, fire and building codes require that nearby buildings incorporate fire rated materials to protect occupants from catastrophic accidents beyond their control. This two hour curtain wall installed at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City is near a parking garage. SAFTIFIRST provided SuperLite II XL-120 IGU in CW framing.

Buildings in Areas Prone to Wildfires

Serra Mesa library, San Diego County

Many communities are built adjacent to dry forested or chaparral covered hillsides with an increased risk of wildfires. By using fire rated glazing and framing, designers can provide fire protection to buildings within or adjacent to wildfire-prone areas without sacrificing the many benefits that glazing provides. For the Serra Mesa library in San Diego County, SAFTIFIRST provided SuperLite II-XL 60 IGU in GPX framing, combining maximum light and vision with life and property protection.

Areas Prone to Hurricanes

Hurricane-rated exterior glazing, Las Olas Beach Club, Ft. Lauderdale

Florida lies in the path of hurricanes and storms coming off of the Gulf of Mexico. When the architect of the Las Olas Beach Club and Condominium project in Fort Lauderdale chose to use as much exterior glazing as possible to ensure views, he turned to SAFTIFIRST for a solution. For the individual units, SAFTIFIRST provided 76 glazed door assemblies using hurricane-rated SuperLite II-XL 60 and SAFTIfire Hurricane doors. For the lobby area, SAFTIFIRST provided a 2-hour window/wall using hurricane-rated SuperLite II-XL 120 in SAFTIfire Hurricane framing.

Conclusion

Projects such as those noted here underscore the fact that as the architectural community continues to demand better performing clear fire rated glazing and framing products for building exteriors, SAFTIFIRST will be there to provide innovative products that meet and exceed their expectations.

Do you have a current or upcoming project that needs fire rated glass and framing? Contact us today!