The conversation around fire safety glass tends to focus on fire protection alone. However as Andy Lake of Pyroguard explains, when specified correctly, this glass can be combined with other products to create a multi-functional system that offers so much more
In an industry with high expectations, architects and specifiers are often looking for ways in which they can push the boundaries of design and deliver more on a project. In order to achieve this, they will look to building products and solutions with innovation at their core and those with multi-functional qualities. But, how does fire safety glass fit into this?
When discussing fire safety glass, it can be easy to think of it as a product with a sole function. However, while its primary purpose is indeed to protect people, property and possessions in the unfortunate event of a fire, this can just be the start of a specification. In fact, with the correct technical guidance, it is possible for a glazing system to deliver high levels of fire protection, but so much more.
Fire safety glass is manufactured by alternating layers of toughened glass with intumescent gel interlayers, it is these interlayers that deliver the protection, causing the fire safety glass to react in the event of a fire. Yet, through the careful and technical selection of additional specialist glass panes to be interchanged within the system – or, in the case of a double-glazed unit, the installation of a specialist counterpane – additional performance qualities can be achieved.
Glass itself is already favoured by architects, specifiers and interior designers, bringing transparency to buildings and creating open, light and contemporary spaces. However, with this demand for aesthetics also comes the requirement for fire safety, good acoustics and energy efficiency – to name but a few.
Take acoustic performance and office developments as an example. Modern office buildings will commonly feature a bright, open-plan layout – designed to help improve productivity levels and aid communication. Glass can be integral to achieving this, whether through the specification of glass partitions between work spaces or even glass boardrooms. Schools are a similar story, often featuring glazed partitions within classrooms to help create a light and airy learning environment. However, this can all present architects with a dilemma, with the need for a glazed system that satisfies the fire safety regulations and also offers sound-deadening properties.
Through the specification of laminated toughened fire safety glass and use of calculations regarding the number of glass layers used within a system, it can be carefully engineered to reduce the amount of sound that is able to pass through the material, offering an enhanced acoustic performance.
Another concern for architects when specifying glass is the issue of energy efficiency. This is particularly the case on high-rise buildings with glass facades, where glass forms a considerable percentage of the building envelope and can present the risk of it acting as a large greenhouse. Here again, the
multi-functional capabilities of fire safety glass can help. Incorporating a glass pane with a solar control coating within the larger glazed system can prove highly beneficial, helping to reflect the UV light away from the glass. This coating can also work to keep the heat inside the building in colder months, rather than it escaping through the glass.
As well as ensuring a building’s future occupants are kept comfortable, it goes without saying that architects also want to make a building look good. With the correct technical advice, it is possible for a screen-printed glass pane to be incorporated within a fire-rated glazed system, opening up additional design avenues for interior spaces. With coloured, etched and printed glass interlayers available, architects can push the boundaries and bring more colour and art into a building, whether for the purposes of aesthetics, or to create an ‘on-brand’ appearance.
The use of a screen-printed glass interlayer can also be taken even further, with wider potential applications. For example, healthcare buildings can demand a multitude of properties from building materials and, while the use of glass can contribute to the creation of a light and welcoming space, it does also raise issues around privacy.
Just as incorporating a coloured interlayer within a glazed system can open up the design doors for architects, so too can it be used to engineer enhanced levels of privacy. For example, it is possible for integrated blinds to be incorporated within the glazing system, or an additional glass pane with a mirror or obscure finish – or even a screen-printed glass pane – to be interchanged between the toughened glass layers.
Rather than limiting a specification to one function, fire safety glass should perhaps instead be seen as a means of opening the doors to other design opportunities and performance capabilities. In fact, its fire protection can be just the start of a specification, helping architects to push the boundaries of architectural and interior design and contribute to the creation of buildings that are safe, comfortable and attractive.
Andy Lake is UK sales director at Pyroguard