Fire-Rated Glazing Keeps Your Campus Safe from Fire Beautifully
Today’s fire-rated glass systems provide an environment that is not only safe and secure, but more conducive to learning and healing.
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The design team found their solution with a two-hour, fire-resistive- rated glass floor system.
“We needed a fire-resistance-rated assembly in the atrium, but we didn’t want researchers and students to be in the dark,” says Matt Garett, project architect at Flad Architects. “The fire-rated glass floor system allowed us to compartmentalize a very large volume of space without blocking off access to daylight.”
Today, building teams can orient fire-rated glazing systems in a number of beneficial ways to reduce a building’s volume and support occupant wellbeing goals. For instance, design teams can incorporate fire-rated glass curtain walls around grand atriums and lobbies, specify fire-rated glass wall assemblies in corridors and use fire-rated glass between new building additions.
Another key way fire-rated glazing can benefit campus design is through increased daylight transfer. Not only does fire-rated glazing allow natural light to pass through areas that previously had to incorporate concrete blocks or other dense, opaque materials to comply with fire codes, design teams can also orient it in such a way as to maximize light penetration.
For example, fire-rated curtain walls are an ideal solution in waiting rooms, stairwells and elevators where it is possible to transfer daylight through multiple rooms.
Floor-to-ceiling fire-rated transparent wall panels and full-lite glass doors can supplement illumination. And newer options, like fire-rated glass floors, can help transfer sunlight into otherwise hard-to-light interiors. GBBN Architects’ Clinical Services Pavilion at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center illustrates these points well.
A point of emphasis for the firm was to provide clinical researchers and hospital staff with visual connectivity between workspaces and access to natural light. Among the building elements that contributed to the success of their vision is a light and porous central fire-rated glass stairwell. By incorporating expansive sections of fire-resistant glass and framing within the stairwell, the design team turned an otherwise restricted area into an open, light-filled pathway for egress that defends against the spread of flames, smoke and heat for up to two hours.
Another example of using fire-rated glazing to meet campus daylighting design goals is seen in the Dally Tower at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Wash.
Good Sam Design Collaborative, Clark/Kjos Architects and GBJ Architects designed a large elevator with a glass façade to hel
p transmit light streamed from the elevator’s skylight into nearby waiting rooms and offices. To meet fire and life safety code criteria, the application needed to provide fire resistance.
The building team’s solution was to use a fire-resistance-rated curtain wall to skin the front side of the central lobby’s multistory elevator. Today, the multistory, fire-rated curtain wall helps the healthcare campus provide patients and visitors with abundant access to natural light.
Fire-rated glazing can also benefit campuses in form as well as function. While fire-rated glazing previously tended to have much thicker frames and glass to provide the necessary fire protection, advanced fire-rated glass systems can utilize a new generation of fire-rated steel frames to improve sightlines and views.
Additionally, these sophisticated frames more closely match the look of non-rated frames, allowing for smooth visual integration with surrounding applications.
In The New School University Center in New York, designed by SOM, these enhanced options helped the design team turn a frequently traversed fire-rated stairwell into a central design element. SOM used fire-resistive glass and slender, fire-resistive frames with custom corners and angles to mirror the stairwell’s elevations and diagonal trajectories. This design treatment gives movement to the vertical academic building and transforms a code-driven application into a point of visual engagement.
As an added benefit, today’s fire-rated frames can be custom painted or powder coated to match virtually any color scheme. In Mill Brook Elementary School in Concord, N.H., HMFH Architects utilized this option, installing fire-rated frames that were powder coated bright purple to match the campus’ interior color scheme. This design treatment helped the firm fulfill their vision of developing a multi-use “learning corridor” that brings education beyond the classroom.
Today, additional fire-rated framing options include authentic hardwood, products with the look of stainless steel, silicone-glazed (SG) fire-rated curtain walls and butt-glazed, fire-rated framing systems. SG fire-rated curtain walls provide a smooth, frame-free exterior surface. Butt-glazed, fire-rated systems enable extensive fire-rated glazed walls with virtually uninterrupted views.
Don’t Be Left in the Dark
With modern fire-rated glazing products, there is no need for dark, institutional and poorly lit spaces that bear little resemblance to today’s progressive campus designs. Campuses can be light, bright and open, filled with fire-rated glazing that occupants walk by every day without ever realizing it’s their source of fire protection.
Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. For more information, visit fireglass.com or call (800) 426-0279.