Fire Rated Switchable Glass Provides Privacy and Fire Protection at the University of Chicago Medical Center

University of Chicago Medical Center – Center for Care and Discovery Inpatient Space (3rd and 4th Floor)
Chicago, IL
Architect: Albert Kahn Associates
Glazing Contractor: Glass Solutions Inc.
Products Used: SuperLite II-XL 45 with SwitchLite Privacy Glass

Fire Rated Switchable Glass Provides Privacy and Fire Protection Case Study

The new 10-story “Center for Care and Discovery” building in the University of Chicago Medical Center’s campus is dubbed as the “hospital of the future” for its high-tech design and groundbreaking scientific work. At 1.2 million square feet, it is one of the largest buildings at the campus and has already transformed the skyline of Chicago’s south side.

Albert Kahn Associates designed the new inpatient spaces on the 3rd and 4th (medical/surgical) floors which included: single-occupancy patient rooms, intensive care and observation beds, nurse’s stations, visitor and family waiting areas and general support spaces.

Several of these rooms required a nurse’s station situated outside of the room to monitor patients during their recover from surgery. There are times when privacy is required or desired as well, so the architects specified SwitchLite Privacy Glass for these rooms. In the past, curtains or external window blinds would have been used, but were not chosen because they were determined to be more maintenance prone and tend to accumulate and trap dust and other allergens. Glass with integrated blinds are also available, but the architects wanted the ease of control and the high-tech look of electronic privacy glass that goes from completely clear to complete privacy at a flick of a switch.

Most of the patient rooms in the medical/surgical floor required the windows to have a 45-minute fire protective rating. The University of Chicago Hospital Group reached out to Bill Zientarski of Hi-Performance Glazing Solutions and SAFTI FIRST®’s architectural representative in Illinois for a solution that combined vision, privacy and fire protection in one glazed unit.

To keep a uniform look between the fire rated and non-fire rated units, SAFTI FIRST® combined the SwitchLite Privacy Glass with the SuperLite II-XL 45 product, which is a clear, fire protective glazing product that reduces sound, stops smoke/flames, limits dangerous radiant heat, meets hose stream and is CPSC Cat. II impact safety rated. SAFTI FIRST® sent a sample of the SuperLite II-XL 45 with SwitchLite Privacy Glass to the architects and they found it to be just what they were looking for and it satisfied all code requirements. The fire rated electronic privacy glass units were manufactured in SAFTI FIRST®’s facility in Merced, California and delivered to Glass Solutions Inc., who installed the units.

While filmed wired glass, filmed ceramics or laminated ceramics could be used in this 45 minute application, only SuperLite II-XL 45 can deliver the optical clarity they requested – wired glass has embedded wires and ceramic glass (even the premium, polished versions) have an amber tint. In addition, SuperLite II-XL 45 provides sound and radiant heat protection that neither wire nor ceramics provided. Since SuperLite II-XL 45 uses tempered glass, it is not as prone to breakage and replacement, which would be costly. For side-by-side comparisons of 45-minute fire protective products available today, click here.

SAFTI FIRST® was proud to offer a solution that met the fire rated code requirements and the functional vision and privacy components of the application with sound attenuation. Using switchable glass instead of curtains or integrated blinds for privacy while coupling that with clear vision complemented the architect’s high-tech design for this new and unique hospital.