How frameless glass can give a new look to passive fire protection

Ian Cowley of Promat Securiglass examines how choosing the correct supplier can help you achieve the sort of fire-resistant frameless glazing solutions which characterise today’s modern building designs

The harsh reality of today’s construction world is that no one involved in specifying fire-resistant protection for buildings can afford to get it wrong. The consequences which can result from a defective or even inefficient fire-protection system do not bear thinking about, and this exerts an extra pressure on modern building specifiers as they work to turn today’s evermore adventurous building designs into reality.

This pressure also comes to bear on the passive fire protection systems that are used on modern buildings, where every component – whether it is penetration sealant or fire protection board – must perform reliably and effectively. However, one such component – fire rated glazing – has recently undergone interesting developments which are now helping bring some very adventurous building designs to life.

What is fire-rated glazing?

People generally use the phrase ‘fire-resistant glazing’ to mean a glass that can survive standard fire tests, and so be used to stop flames and smoke progressing through a building. Although standard float glass has some ability in this area, proper fire-resistant glass normally has a wired, tempered or laminated construction and is able to withstand temperatures over 850°C. This normally earns the glass a fire rating of 60 minutes, 120 minutes etc, which indicates how long it is expected to withstand the effects of a fire.

For many years, fire-rated glazing has typically been used to create internal fire protection partitions. These often featured prominent timber or metal framing systems, which combine with the fire glass to create an overall glazing system. However, recent developments in fire glazing mean that butt-jointed fire glazing systems are now a proven and reliable option. They have become increasingly popular for the design possibilities they offer, and especially for their ability to allow huge amounts of light and air to enter today’s modern building designs. A butt-jointed system which uses glass to create fire-rated walls can be extremely effective, provided that the system is properly specified and installed.

Where to start

Specifying and installing a system properly is not a simple task, so where do you start the process? The most important step is to work with an experienced fire glazing supplier. They will be able to offer the right sort of technical guidance you require, and the earlier you get them involved in your project, the greater their contribution can be. Invite them in at the initial design stages and their experience and specialist expertise can help you avoid problems at a later stage.

As you’d expect, fire glazing is surrounded by a wealth of rules and regulations that will have an impact on your project. A reputable fire-glazing provider can help you strike a balance between a glazing system that complies with all the necessary regulations, but which is still suited to your project and fit for purpose. The degree of customer service they offer is another key area to consider. If they are flexible in their approach, it can deliver practical benefits for the other parties involved, such as helping contractors out by scheduling material deliveries to site to coincide with the overall construction programme. They will also be able to contribute advice and guidance at the installation stage which will help avoid potential problems.

Made for the job

Naturally, you should be fully confident that the product you choose is really able to deliver the required levels of performance. Any glazing system should be backed by all the relevant approvals and certifications, but selecting one that has a proven track record will give some extra valuable reassurance. Once you’ve chosen the type of fire glazing system that’s suitable for your project, there are still some other important considerations to be aware of. Fire glazing often forms part of a wider passive fire protection system which might involve dozens of other products such as fire protection boards, protective coatings or penetration seals, so it’s a good idea to work with a manufacturer who can provide as many of those other components as possible. For example, a glass fire door which has minimal framework is an ideal partner for a butt-jointed glazing system, so sourcing both components from one manufacturer makes good sense. It makes life easier, ensures compatibility between the various passive fire protection products and simplifies your route to a satisfactory end result.

Fire-resistant glazing has never offered as many building design possibilities as it does today. With careful consideration, and a reliable manufacturer to help you through the process, there is no reason why those possibilities cannot be translated into reality provided the design, specification and construction processes have been completed to the highest standard.