After SAFTI’s 38 years in the fire rated glazing industry, I still get asked, “what does ‘SAFTI’ in SAFTI FIRST mean?” I also get the question as to why I formed a separate company when O’Keeffe’s Incorporated was already an established company and brand in the architectural glazing community for our leadership in monumental skylight manufacturing and installation in the US and around the world.
It was at the GlassTec show in Germany where I first saw a new type of clear fire rated glass that didn’t have wires in it. This was during the late 1970s, where traditional wire glass was the only fire rated glass option in the US. Wire glass was mistakenly perceived as “safety glazing” because the embedded wires gave the illusion of increased strength and impact resistance. In fact, the opposite is true. The wire actually weakens the glass, making it half as strong as ordinary window glass so it breaks easily on human impact. This causes the razor sharp shards of glass and the exposed wires to trap a victim’s limb in the opening and increase the severity of the injury. Alarmingly, traditional wired glass was the most commonly used fire-rated glass product found in educational facilities. The wire glass companies had obtained an exemption from the safety standards that were developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This led to more than 2,500 wired glass impact injuries among students every year. This new fire rated glass from Europe was optically clear without any embedded wires and outperformed wired glass in both fire and impact safety which meant it could be used in applications, sizes and ratings where it was never before allowed. I saw this safer, better performing, wire-free, fire rated glass product and knew that brining this new technology to the US to replace wire glass would be revolutionary not just in design and performance, but most importantly, in safety.
Because of this, I decided to market this new product under a separate company from O’Keeffe’s Inc. In choosing a name for this new company, I wanted something that put safety at the forefront, since protecting the public through innovative products is what it would be all about. That’s when I came up with SAFTI, which is actually an acronym that stands for Safety and Fire Technology Incorporated. ‘FIRST’ was added later on, and now we are known was SAFTI FIRST, the division of O’Keeffe’s Incorporated that specializes in advanced fire rated glass and framing systems made here in the USA. But more than a division, company or brand, SAFTI FIRST to us is a guiding principle with every product or project that we are involved in, as reflected in our mission statement:
our customers with expert information, economical solutions, and unlimited inspiration.”
Since SAFTI FIRST’s inception and up until today, I believe we have stayed true to our company name. From our decades-long campaign of raising awareness on the dangers of traditional wire glass that eventually lead to a successful code change in the 2003 IBC that now prohibits the use of traditional wire glass in doors, sidelites and any other hazardous locations. It was also apparent that SAFTI FIRST would have to educate the architects, building code officials, glaziers and building owners on this new fire resistant or “wall standard” approved product that could block radiant heat. This led to a significant effort to clarify fire protective glass (rated 45 minutes and under and without radiant heat protection) vs. fire resistive glass (rated 60 to 102 minutes and with full radiant heat protection) in the 2012 IBC. This clarification in the code alerts architects and building officials to the size and application limitations placed on ceramics, wire glass and other fire protective 45 minute glazing products and fire resistive 60 to 120 minute glazing that stops radiant heat. These fire resistive products can also protect against hurricanes, bullets, blast, forced entry, UV, noise and more.
We have focused on innovative designs that allow for more vision, daylight and transparency in applications that might otherwise use opaque building materials to meet code. Our fire resistive curtain wall has successfully passed dynamic curtain wall testing, giving architects and building owners a tested system that is air and water tight under real world conditions. We currently have a one hour fire resistive floor system and will be presenting a two hour floor system in 2017 that allows daylight to penetrate further into the building while meeting fire rated requirements. Our newly introduced clear, fire resistive butt-glazed wall assembly is rated up to 2 hours and is the largest on the market without vertical mullions or spacers for a truly transparent design while meeting all fire and impact safety requirements. In the coming months, we will be making announcements as we obtain acceptance from the testing labs for a new, fire resistive aluminum framing system with narrow sightlines and an even-more simplified installation process. At the same time, we will also introduce a new, narrow profile fire resistive 90 minute aluminum door, giving architects a complete, fire resistive aluminum door and wall system for interior and exterior applications up to 2 hours.
This is truly an exciting time for our company as we continue to introduce innovative, USA-made products that enhance the safety of the public without sacrificing elegant design. We are, after all, SAFTI “Safety and Fire Technology Incorporated” FIRST – and this will be our mission for years to come.