Fire-resistant Glass – Delaying Tactics

The preservation of life often depends on delaying or preventing the spread of fire and smoke. Susan Sinden, Commercial Manager of ESG Group, explains how to specify fire resistant safety glass – still one of our best lines of defence against fire in the built environment.

Since The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force in October 2006, fire safety awareness has been a prominent issue in the construction industry. When specifying building materials, especially fire resistant safety glass, it is essential to select the most appropriate product for each project.

If a property is largely residential in nature, with occupants potentially being asleep when a fire starts, more time will be needed to evacuate occupants than in an office block or municipal building. Obviously, in care settings, in which residents may have mobility issues or be prone to confusion, more assistance will be needed and therefore more time required for evacuation. In custodial settings, evacuation will also present further security challenges and require more time. In these instances, the more delay to fire that we can provide by careful specification of glass products, the better.

Traditionally, fire resistant safety glass would have been one of two main types. Classified as type ‘E’ under BS476 Pt 22 and BS EN 1364 Pt 1 1999, the first option would have been Integrity only fire-resistant safety glass, which contains flames, smoke and gases, but not heat. The second type was Integrity and fully Insulating fire-resistant safety glass, denoted as type ‘EI’ under the same regulations. In addition to containing the fire, this second type of glass also limits the transfer of heat.

Modern fire-resistant safety glass is something of a hybrid between these two types, containing not only smoke and flames, but also offering a degree of heat resistance. In contrast to older types of Integrity and fully Insulating fire-resistant safety glass, modern fire-resistant glass such as ESG Pyrotech is a highly cost-effective solution offering both properties. This is denoted as type ‘EW’ under BS regulations and is increasingly popular with specifiers, as it represents a ‘best of both worlds’ option.

EW glass is usually classified according to the amount of time for which it provides resistance to fire. This is usually certified as either 30 minutes’ or 60 minutes’ resistance against smoke and flames, and it is by this time classification that fire resistant glass is usually specified.

For a large number of premises, such as corporate offices and a wide range of municipal and commercial premises, 30 minutes of fire resistance will offer plenty of protection and a glass product such as ESG Pyrotech™ E30 will be ideal. For care and residential settings, however, a glass providing longer resistance, such as ESG Pyrotech™ E60, should be specified.

It is also possible, using a multi-layered fire-resistant glass, to provide full insulation with up to 120 minutes of protection. If there is a specific reason why additional fire-resistance might be needed, it is a good idea to consult the owner or end user about the individual needs of the property and to ask the glass processor for advice before specifying.

Fire-resistant safety glass must be assessed under strict testing in fire conditions by an independent testing facility. Following testing, it will be granted either a 30 minutes or a 60 minutes’ certification. When specifying, you should check that this testing has been carried out and the correct certification has been granted. You should also check on the certification of any frames or doors in which the glass is to be installed. CERTIFIRE approval is a good indication of a quality product. The ESG Pyrotech™ range has been independently tested and accredited by the independent UKAS approved test laboratory, Exova of Warrington CERTIFIRE scheme CF628, and we would always recommend looking for an equivalent accreditation.

Once installed, any damaged fire-resistant panels should be replaced as quickly as possible as damage will inevitably compromise the fire-resistant properties of the glass. It is now possible to specify a high security toughened laminated fire-resistant glass product, ideal for situations such as transport termini, prisons and other high security applications.

Thanks to modern lamination technology, we can also add acoustic, ballistic and privacy solutions, so it really is worthwhile consulting the glass processor at the planning stages of your project.

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