Wired safety glass – it’s time for a positive change in our schools
In many ways the original safety glass, Georgian wired glass still remains a popular building material within our schools and colleges, often installed on a ‘like for like’ basis. Yet, its current global shortage means that other fire safety glass solutions will soon need to be considered. Here, Steve Goodburn, Pyroguard’s Business Development Director explores the current supply chain issues and the alternatives available to make for a positive change.
When it comes to creating safe learning spaces for teachers, staff and students in our country’s educational buildings, passive fire protection is key. While there are numerous examples of passive fire protection methods and products within the built environment, fire safety glass is a key one. Whether installed in fire doors, windows or internal partitions, fire safety glass is there to help separate the building into a series of fire-safe compartments, providing a safe route of escape as well as safe access for the emergency services in the event of a fire. This process is known as compartmentation, a concept that underpins effective passive fire protection and helps to slow down and control the spread of a fire – as discussed in Approved Document B (Fire Safety).
Wired safety glass, while it can and does meet the required fire safety and impact resistance regulations, is a historic product – perhaps even the original fire safety glass. Despite having been around for many a decade, wired glass can still commonly be found within our educational establishments, especially in fire doors, internal windows and stairwell areas. School refurbishments are a common application, with the glass being replaced on a like-for-like basis, but it is also often installed on new developments too. However, there is a problem, with the global supply chain currently suffering from a shortage of Georgian wired glass and stockists soon to run out if they haven’t already.
Wired glass is an imported product, manufactured in Japan. With the manufacturers having recently changed the wire mesh component in their glass production process, the product is having to be re-tested and re-validated – a process that, rightly so, takes time. As a result, current forecasts are suggesting that new wired glass may not become available until June 2023. With some door manufacturers producing thousands of fire doors every week, this is clearly a timescale that the market cannot wait for.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that there are alternative solutions out there. In fact, these alternatives could mark the start of a positive change for the glazing industry. In the decades since the development of wired glass, the market and industry has moved on, with new research and technological developments resulting in the rise of fire safety glass solutions that offer and deliver more, meaning that specifiers and contractors don’t have to sacrifice on aesthetics for fire protection.
Of course, wired glass does have its advantages – it’s often viewed as an entry-level product, and, until now, was always readily available. Thanks to the wire mesh, it’s also easy to visually identify as an entry level safety glass product, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a fire safety product. That said, it is also prone to various misconceptions, both by the general public and those within the glass industry. The presence of metal wire may make people automatically view it as a stronger product, or as an example of security glass – neither is the case, with fire rated wired glass only having an impact resistance rating of 3B3 to EN12600, the lowest level of impact protection.
Instead, there are clear cuttable fire safety glasses available that can offer the same or greater level of protection. Wired fire safety glass offers the base E level classification, meaning that it stops flames and smoke penetrating through to the unexposed side. Now, this can be substituted for clear fire safety glass with the EW classification, delivering radiant heat reduction too. You can also achieve a higher impact rating and light transmission value, providing added levels of performance on all levels.
With the emphasis on creating contemporary, open and light learning spaces within our educational buildings, glass can be a valuable building material. In particular, opting for clear fire safety glass over wired safety glass can help to achieve this, carefully balancing the need for safety with aesthetics and helping to create the positive, inspiring learning environments of the future.
What’s more, thanks to further advancements in the glazing industry, by making the switch to clear glass people can take advantage of the multi-functional capabilities of fire safety glass, including additional decorative options. For example, it’s possible to have patterned versions of the clear glass, as well as the option to sandblast it for manifestation, or have the glass supplied in a satin finish.
At Pyroguard, both Pyroguard Rapide and Pyroguard Firesafe offer greatly improved alternatives to basic wired glass. Pyroguard Rapide is a cuttable product that provides integrity and radiant heat reduction for 30 minutes and is available on short lead times from a UK-wide network of stockists. While Pyroguard Firesafe is a modified toughened safety glass, which can provide EW30-EW60, as well as a 1C1 impact rating – the superior level of safety.
Despite the initial challenges that this global supply chain shortage presents, it can also be seen as a force for positive change. By taking advantage of the technological advancements in recent years and the range of new products available, we can help make our schools even safer than before, as well as delivering on the modern aesthetic vision.
With over 30 years’ specialist industry expertise and unrivalled technical know-how, Pyroguard’s team are available to help you find the right fire safety glass solution for your requirements - You’re in safe hands.
For further information, please visit: www.pyroguard.eu.