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Shattering the norm: energy efficiency with fire safety glass

With sustainability at the forefront of many people’s minds, contractors and specifiers are looking for ways to increase the energy efficiency of buildings. Glazing systems can have a clear impact on this rating (positive or negative), but what about fire safety glass? Here, Andy Lake, Sales Director UK and IRE from Pyroguard explores how fire safety glass can deliver far more than just fire protection…

Depot Bojimans Van Beuningen at Night

There is an increasing focus on reducing the carbon emissions of UK buildings, especially with fluctuating fuel costs. As such, a higher emphasis is being placed on the energy efficiency and U-values of building products and systems used. With this in mind, architects, contractors and building owners are looking to their glazing units to do more and work harder when it comes to thermal performance. However, what about fire safety glass?

With a crucial role to play in many buildings, from commercial offices to education, leisure and residential developments, fire safety glass is a key part of a passive fire protection strategy. When specified correctly, fire safety glass can be used to create a series of fire safe compartments, providing building occupants with a safe passage of escape, emergency services a secure entrance and limiting the ability of a fire to spread further.

While this is all well-known, what about the energy efficiency rating of a fire safety glass system? With the correct specification, it can be possible for fabricators to easily combine thermal and acoustic performance plus fire protection, creating a multi-functional product that does not require compromise.

Improving the U-Values of fire safety glass with warm edge spacers

One of the best ways of improving the U-values of a fire safety glass system is warm edge spacers. Spacers are used across all insulated glass units (IGUs), separating each pane of glass and working to reduce the thermal transmission bridge of the transition zone between the glass edge and window frame or façade profile. This is done to reduce thermal heat loss, as well as reducing the risk of condensation at the glass edge. However, when it comes to fire-rated systems, these spacers are commonly made out of steel or aluminium, due to the need for the material to remain durable and retain its strength in the event of a fire. Of course, such materials are also conductive, meaning they can have a detrimental effect on reducing the thermal performance of the glazing system and decreasing its overall energy efficiency.

However, with recent market developments and new test evidence to BS EN1364, there are now warm edge spacers available that have been specifically designed for use in fire safety glass systems. For example, a recent partnership between Pyroguard and Technoform has resulted in a successful test programme involving the Technoform SP14 spacer. Featuring a hybrid structure of polypropylene and steel, the SP14 spacer combines thermal properties with the necessary structural stability and durability required for fire protection.

A development such as this enables architects, contractors and fabricators to select a warm edge spacer that can deliver both reliable fire performance and low Psi values (the measure of heat loss along a junction between two thermal elements), without having to compromise on the system’s thermal properties.

Energy efficient fire safety glass using coated glass panels

There are also other ways in which the energy and thermal efficiency of a fire safety glass system can be enhanced, such as by incorporating coated glass panels.

Whilst glass is a popular building material, favoured by architects and interior designers for its ability to create light, open and contemporary spaces, when used incorrectly it can create something of a greenhouse effect. This effect becomes especially apparent in applications such as atriums and façades or curtain walling systems, where exposure to sunlight and UV transmission can heat an internal space up to uncomfortable levels. As well as causing discomfort to building occupants, this will also result in excess energy required to cool the interior down to optimal levels and is, understandably so, something both architects and building owners will want to avoid.

It is here that the multi-functional role of fire safety glass can be invaluable, with the correct specification advice and technical expertise making it possible to incorporate additional panes into a glazing system. Each pane can deliver various qualities and characteristics – ranging from improved acoustics, to solar control, or even built-in privacy. With this in mind, by installing an extra counterpane with a specialised solar coating into the glazing system, sunlight can be allowed to pass through the glass whilst simultaneously reflecting away a large degree of the sun’s heat. This can help to keep the interior space cooler and at a more comfortable temperature, helping to control the building’s operational carbon emissions.

Combine fire protection with energy efficiency

With glass able to have such a significant impact on a building’s overall energy efficiency and operational carbon emissions, glazing contractors and fabricators have a major role to play in helping to construct the greener buildings of our future. While fire safety glass is a product designed first and foremost to protect, with the correct technical expertise it is possible to achieve much more, combining fire protection with energy efficiency.

For more information, please contact us.

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