Sean Haynes of FireGlass UK discusses the importance of recent accreditation and certification systems when it comes to specifying the correct fire-rated glass
Insulated glass units (IGUs), including double glazed units, are individually sealed units which are made up of multiple panes of glass. The glass is separated by an air vacuum or gas filled gap; usually made up of two (double glazed) or three (triple glazed) panes. Energy efficient and insulated against both heat and noise, the sealed air vacuum or gas filled gap between each pane acts as an added layer of insulation. These IGUs can be made up of different kinds of specialist glass. But, if fire-rated glass is to be used, units must be manufactured in accordance with the certification known as Attestation Level 1. Attestation is a term that is used to indicate a type of certification which has processes of conformity, in order to demonstrate that certain requirements have been met. In construction, and especially the glass industry, Attestation of Conformity (AoC) is a declaration of performance that confirms compliance with the relevant standards. The certification was introduced to harmonise performance information across the European Economic Area (EEA). The level of conformity given is dependent on the nature of the product in question. Specialist safety glass products like fire-rated glass units are classed as a safety-critical product, and therefore must meet Level 1 standards. Attestation Level 1 (and 1+) have the most demanding requirements, whereas Level 4 is the least demanding and is given for less critical applications, like decorative glass. The declaration of performance relates to essential characteristics of the manufactured or processed product and includes a declaration in relation to the inspection of the manufacturing facility, and continuous assessment and evaluation of factory production control. For fire-rated IGUs the accreditation of Attestation Level 1 confirms consistency of the product’s performance. Manufactured products which meet these standards carry the mandatory CE marking – visual evidence which gives you peace of mind that you are using a product that is tested and monitored for performance and consistency. Holding this accreditation confirms that fire-rated units are manufactured to the highest safety standards each and every time, to strict guidelines with certified consistency, allowing projects to meet Building Regulation standards – where applicable. If fire-rated units have been installed and the performance certification has not been checked, Building Regulations inspectors can demand they are taken out unless evidence of correct certification can be provided. This can waste valuable project time and money.
Accreditation is important to companies that wish to maintain professionalism as it has a direct impact on public safety. It helps to determine if a company meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality and gives the consumer confidence in choosing a company that puts them first. Certification makes sure products and services meet standards, too. Within the construction industry, they help to make sure projects run smoothly and that quality products which meet Building Regulations are chosen and used.
Testing glass for certification
Fire resistance tests should always be carried out by independent test companies and comply with all relevant fire test standards. All fire-rated glass should be installed as per the test evidence, in terms of the fire resistant glazing system used during the test (including sizing, frame and installation materials); only then will it provide the protection as per its official fire protection rating. If the specified glass is installed into a different frame or installed with different materials (for example a different seal) then this will negate the protection and fire rating of the product; having access to the relevant test evidence when purchasing fire-rated glass is therefore fundamental. A FIRAS-certified company provides installation that demonstrates competency in the installation of such products and systems and then can provide a certificate of authentication. Investing in the right supplier that has the same vision on safety, quality and service can make sure a project is completed to the best possible standards. If using a fire-resistant glass then it must only be used as part of a previously approved glazing system. There is no second chance with safety, make sure you get it right first time.
Sean Haynes is managing director of FireGlass UK