A Strong Hard Look at Glass

Demand for high security glass has been growing fast in the past year. Susan Sinden, Commercial Manager of ESG Group looks at the exciting technical advances that are stimulating this rise in demand.

Security has long been on the agenda of both the property manager and the architect. It is only in the past decade or so, however, that glazing products have entered the security arena with a number of highly secure options which are helping to deter crime and other potential threats to the built environment.

Most of the advances in glass products have come from the lamination process, technology that allows us to permanently bond two or more panes of glass together to create an unusually strong and versatile glazing product. Lamination is completed using a range of specialist PVB (PolyVinyl Butyrall) interlayers.

One of the most exciting innovations is the introduction of high security glass. By varying the type and thickness of the glass used, the number of panes combined and the use of one or more specialist interlayers, we have been able to produce a range which encompasses security against vandals, determined criminals and intruders, and even potential ram-raiders and terrorists. This is all without compromising on a building’s aesthetics or longevity.

Laminated security glass can now pass the standards for EN356 manual attack resistant glass, easily withstanding multiple blows from heavy objects or weapons. Its presence will either prevent the external envelope from being breached altogether, or greatly extend the time that it takes to open the glass panel; usually quite sufficient to deter the would-be intruder. As a result, high security laminated glass is now commonly used in applications such as shop fronts, jewellery counters or to protect bank employees.

High security and ballistic resistant glass are helping us to design crime out of public buildings, deterring the use of firearms and ram-raiding by criminals. Processing techniques are such that we can also produce laminated glass which passes the tests for ISO 16933:2007, which governs the standards for blast resistant glass, which means that we can now construct buildings to be more resistant to terrorist attacks, without having to compromise on architectural design. This type of blast resistant glass is now increasingly specified for use in airports and rail stations. Using glass was once thought to compromise security, but now it can enhance it. Not only is high security glass a highly resistant material which can help foil an attack; the clear lines of view which glass provides can also allow security teams to enjoy a better view of approaching threats.

High security can be further enhanced with the addition of a switchable LCD privacy interlayer, such as ESG Switchable, which allows the glass to be switched from optically clear to opaque at the touch of a button. This switchable secure option is particularly popular in high value retail settings for luxury goods. Not only is the glass highly resistant to attack, but the opacity means that a potential thief does not know whether the goods they intend to steal have been removed for safekeeping. There is, therefore, no guarantee that the degree of effort required to damage a pane of high security switchable glass would be worthwhile.

Switchable glass allows security operatives to choose whichever helps most in each scenario, screening from public view, or a clear sight of any potential attack. In some high security settings, it is often desirable to have a means of viewing tightly guarded property. In a custodial setting it may also be necessary to monitor a high security prisoner. Obviously the most secure option for either is to keep them behind a high security door. Using high security glass, it is possible to incorporate a glass panel into a security door without losing any of its integrity. This can now be a switchable privacy glass panel thanks to the advent of ESG Secure Vue, a new switchable secure panel in which the power for the switchable interlayer is provided by a battery, so no mains wiring is required.

Bespoke products can answer a number of security challenges in the modern built environment. As well as combining privacy and security to combat crime and terrorism, we can also add sound attenuation to enhance confidentiality. With one product containing several valuable characteristics, the bespoke product becomes highly cost effective. Just a few of the reasons that the glass processor should now be a first port of call for advice when designing a high security setting.

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