Lamination: The Future of Architectural Glass
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Lamination: The Future of Architectural Glass

ByBill O'Keeffe
| November 19, 2022

The Glasstec show in Dusseldorf is an industry show that is near and dear to me. Over four decades ago, it was where I first discovered a technologically advanced glass capable of resisting fire, smoke and heat. Something that wired glass, the only fire rated glass available and in use in the United States, could not. This glazing product was so innovative, and I realized that the U.S. market was unaware of it. That it could solve the architects desire to provide visibility in the more restrictive fire rated areas, one and two hour, where no glass was allowed. I realized the great possibilities this glazing could provide to the architectural community: full glass exit routes, visibility into and through up to two-hour fire rated areas, fire rated glass floors, fire rated glass doors and so much more. I thought this advanced technology had to be brought to the US market. But would it pass our more stringent fire testing? Testing that requires a thirty pound per square inch water stream blasted at it with a standard full stream fire hose and nozzle.

We originally partnered with Schuco in testing of their one hour-glass door, testing done in the U.S.. Schuco makes beautiful aluminum doors, storefronts and other products but they are not designed for the U.S. market and were never tested with the hose stream test required and unfortunately it failed.

It became obvious that if fire rated framing and glass were to come to the U.S., they would require a newly designed framing system to protect the glass during testing and the hose stream.

In 1981, KINON the manufacturer of the glass, and a recent acquisition of SAINT GOBAIN, approached us and asked if we wanted to design a framing system for the U.S. that could successfully pass U.S. testing protocol. In turn they would grant OKeeffe’s (we had not formed SAFTI FIRST at that time) exclusive rights to their glass products for sale in the U.S.A.

SAFTI FIRST was formed and designed “GPX” which stands for G “glass”, PX “protects” or “GPX”. This SAFTI FIRST’s GPX framing system is the first “RESISTIVE framing and glazing system to be produced, tested and that could meet U.S. standards” and the first listed for use in “resistive areas” (all those areas over forty-five minutes) where use of any glazing had been restricted before. The system is listed under the wall standards because it functions as a wall – only it is a “transparent wall” – capable of stopping fire, radiant heat, and smoke. Unique from any other building product made.

What followed was years of investing in testing, product development, manufacturing, education and promotion. Because of these efforts, by SAFTI FIRST, the fire rated glass industry as we know it today is light years away from the small wired and ceramic vision lites of the past. To the now full vision, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall engineered systems used as storefronts, curtain walls, entrances and floors. All meeting the ASTM E-119/UL 263 standard for use up to 2 hours. SAFTI FIRST is still proudly the only fully integrated fire rated system provider in the U.S.A., with plants that manufacture the glazing, framing, floors and doors to provide the most intricate of fire protective or resistive “those areas requiring over forty-five-minute ratings” available. These systems include Hurricane, Ballistic, Solar control, Curtain wall and almost any fire rated system configuration specified.

When Glasstec announced that they were back, where in-person interaction flourishes, I knew I had to be there to support and celebrate one of the best product and technology shows of the glass industry to see the latest innovations, visit with old friends and network with new contacts.

Another purpose was to visit PUJOL to discuss their advanced glass lamination technology. Lamination of architectural glazing has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. And now is asked to do even more by architects and owners. As they are now requesting glass that is strong enough to withstand bullets, blast, hurricanes, attack, energy efficiency noise abatement, deliver privacy when desired and all of these while being beautiful and artistic. These advanced characteristics are only made possible through the developments made in glass laminates and laminating equipment. At the forefront of this emerging technology is Pujol, with over 110 years of history in manufacturing and of glass laminating equipment.

I have been following Pujol for many years now and when we saw the growth and potential of glass laminating, I knew there was no better partner to work with. Earlier this year, our company acquired their state-of-the-art Pujol 100+, a complete laminating line with one oven for standard lamination processes and one oven for bomb blast and detention products. This automated laminating line is capable of manufacturing almost any variation of laminated glass products. Bullet-resistant, blast, hurricane, forced entry/attack, switchable and dynamic glass, art glass, glass floors, glass stairs, glass railings, mirrored or one-way see-through glass, decorative glass with organic inserted-fabric, metals, stones and papers, colored glass, LED glass, bird friendly glass, glass with ceramic frits, T.V. and internet mirrored glass, vandal protection, decorative, energy performance, and sound rated glazing. Or if these aren’t enough, we will try to provide whatever else a creative mind can think of!

These stated options can be mixed or added together to create a multi-functional, high-performance glazing system that can also incorporate fire ratings up to 120 minutes, thus providing architects with the maximum creativity and flexibility!

After the Glasstec show, I was fortunate enough to tour Pujol’s facility in Barcelona, Spain. There I was able to see how truly advanced and committed they are to be the leader in the laminated glass sector. I am excited to enter this relationship of SAFTI FIRST with Pujol’s technology leadership in developing new and innovative glazing products that address the design and performance needs of architects and owners and provide ecological innovation.

The last leg of my three-week European adventure brought me to France for the Batimat 2022 tradeshow in Paris. This is another industry tradeshow that I enjoy visiting because it showcases all the latest innovations in all types of construction products, not just glass. Anything and everything that goes in a building, you will find it here. As someone who is always curious and looking for the “next big thing,” it was great to see this show come alive again as an in-person event.

I am happy to see our industry and the world in general opened again. Like many of you, I have missed the connections and experiences made possible by face-to-face interactions and “in being in the moment.” See you at Glass Build in Las Vegas!