On any glazing project, whether it’s a new development or building refurbishment, when it comes to specifying and installing fire safety glass, taking a system approach is essential.
As budgets within the construction industry tighten, the retrofit and refurbishment markets are predicted to be a growing source of work for glazing installers. Such projects can take a number of different forms, such as installing new fire doors, upgrading a building’s existing glazing to a more modern and energy-efficient solution, or installing new windows and partitions as part of repurposing or a wider building extension.
While these projects may on the surface seem straightforward, as soon as fire safety glass is involved it is imperative that they are approached correctly and with the right technical knowledge and understanding. Failure to do so could result in a system being installed that is not fire safe and would not deliver the required level of protection in the unfortunate event of a fire.
A key part of any building’s passive fire protection strategy, fire safety glass can only truly deliver its intended fire protection value if specified and installed as part of a tested and certificated system. This idea of a ‘system approach’ is a phrase that perhaps truly came to the forefront of construction in the years following the 2017 Grenfell disaster. It was a subject that featured heavily in the Hackitt review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety, documenting the need to approach building construction differently and to start viewing buildings as a single system. Indeed, the limitations of viewing products in isolation, as opposed to evaluating how they will perform together as a total system once in situ, were made widely apparent.
When it comes to fire safety, a system approach should be at the forefront of all specification and installation decisions – regardless of whether it’s a new development or a refurbishment project. After all, in many ways, fire safety products are essentially just single products, unless tested and certificated and brought together in an approved system.
Fire doors are perhaps the best, and most complex, example of this, relying on a multitude of different components all working together to deliver the required level of fire protection. You have the door itself (including any veneer or paints used), the glazing, intumescent seals, door closer and even the ironmongery, such as hinges and letterboxes – it all has to be tested and certificated as one overall system. Even the slightest change from the original specification on site, such as swapping out a different style of letterbox, can detrimentally impact the overall fire rating.
On the surface, fire safety windows and glazed partitions may appear simpler. However, there is still the glass, frame, seal and fixings all to consider. In terms of the frame, if it is made from wood, the selection of the right density and thickness of wood is integral to ensuring the system will perform as required. Likewise, with an aluminium frame, it is essential that the frames are fabricated in accordance with the tested and approved specification as, again, the slightest change could ultimately affect the overall fire rating.
It is clear, therefore, that achieving a fire safe system is far more complex than you may first think. All too often, there can be a view within the industry that fire safety glass is a magic material – that, if fire safety glass is installed in a window, door, partition or façade, then that wider system or product automatically becomes fire safe too. However, this of course is not the case, instead requiring careful consideration of the glass and its associated components.
It is here that third-party certification is really key. Schemes such as Certifire offer the ability to change specific elements of the construction but at the same time give assurance that a specification will still deliver the required levels of performance. It is important that installers and specifiers always refer to this primary test evidence and certification or follow the third-party approved specification carefully. Should you wish to alter a test specification, or are simply unsure, always seek advice from the manufacturer.
At Pyroguard, our expert technical sales managers are on hand to help. If you have a refurbishment or renovation project that requires the installation of a fire safety glass solution, from external windows to internal partitions – increasingly common in modern building design – we can work with you to help create a system that meets your performance requirements, using our library of existing test evidence.