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The Economics of Replacing Unsafe Wired Glass

The economics of replacing unsafe wired glass, needs to incorporate not just the cost of replacement clear fire rated glass, but the avoided cost of litigation and maintenance.

Side by side, the price of fire- and impact-resistant products can’t hold up to the low cost of traditional wired glass products, causing many school officials and architects to dismiss alternative products.

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“It’s a significant issue, figuring out how we can get people to pay for these new products,” Ellen Schmidt, national outreach coordinator of the Child Safety Network, said during a September Capitol Hill Symposium on wired glass in schools. “There’s a real need for an education campaign about the dangers of wired glass and the alternatives that are out there.”

Several manufacturers and industry representatives say the education about alternatives products needs to relay that the prices can be deceiving—alternative products are more affordable when other factors are considered.

Kate Steel, owner of Steel Consulting Services of Piedmont, Calif., says administrators need to take into account where the glass will be used in the school, the replacement costs of traditional wired glass products and the costs of possible litigation if any injuries are sustained from traditional wired glass.

Many architects and administrators perceive that the prices for impact- and fire-resistant products exceed budgets, Steel says. While some products can exceed $100 per square foot, the products required for uses in schools are much more affordable, she says.

“About 75 percent of the requirements for fire-rated glass in schools are for 20-minute fire-rated doors,” Steel says. “Twenty-minute rated products are absolutely the least expensive safety alternatives.”

The 20-minute products are still more expensive than traditional wired products, Steel says, but maintenance and replacement costs may offset that difference. Wired glass has about half the strength of annealed glass and is about 1/10 the strength of tempered glass.

“Kids walking down the corridor with a trombone case hit the glass and it breaks,” Steel says. “The janitor pushing a cart into the glass, it breaks. They could recoup that cost savings by installing an impact product.”

Another concern for districts may be the possibility of litigation costs that can result from wired-glass injuries.

At the Capitol Hill symposium, Teresa Drijber, claims manager for the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, recommended that school administrators also keep possible wired glass claims in mind when specifying fire-rated products in new buildings.

Since 1987, Drijber said, OSBIE officials investigated 151 incidents of glass breakage in the Ontario school districts, with 40 claims. The districts paid out $1.2 million with $500,000 outstanding.

“These might not seem like large claims here, but for us in Canada, and for us being school districts, these are big numbers,” she said.

Source: e-glassweekly, October 3, 2006

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