Volume 37, Issue 5, May 2002

Open the Flood Gates
At USGlass magazine, we often publish articles that spark a great deal of debate. The article written on the topic of wired glass (see February 2002 USGlass, pages 54-61), was no exception, and generated a great deal of discussion. So instead of publishing those responses as part of our letters to the editor section we decided to print them here. We're sure the following letters may fuel even more feedback, so feel free to keep sending in your responses. As usual, the opinions expressed in letters are those of the authors, and not USGlass magazine. A few of the letters had to be held due to space constraints, but these may be viewed by visiting our website at www.usglassmag.com. 

Criticism for the "Wired Warrior" 
Dear USGlass,
In the article, "Wired Warrior," (see February issue of USGlass, page 54), you pose a number of questions regarding the nature of Bill O'Keeffe's crusade against the use of wired glass. The bottom line seems to be: Is his real motivation promoting safety, or increasing market share for his fire-rated product? 

One fact not discussed in the article sheds some light on this subject. O'Keeffe's aggressively markets a product called SuperLite I-XL for use in one-hour fire-rated applications. Yet the product does not pass the hose stream test required by all U.S. code standards for 60-minute fire-rated glazing. Further, the product is "directional," meaning it may only offer protection from one side of the glass. So, we have a directional product that hasn't passed a required test standard. Why is selling such a product more acceptable to O'Keeffe than using wired glass that has specific exemptions from impact safety standards? At least the wired glass meets the test standards for fire-rated glazing.

In speaking of his own company, O'Keeffe states, "… we strive to market products that do not compromise any aspect of safety." He goes on to claim, "Our glazing products not only meet the fire standards but exceed the ANSI safety standards."

These statements are simply not true when it comes to SuperLite I-XL, which does compromise life safety and does not meet fire test standards. So, it appears that when it suits their marketing needs, O'Keeffe's is not above ignoring testing requirements.

If O'Keeffe truly is on a "righteous" mission to make the world a safer place, he can best begin by addressing irregularities in his own product line-up. Until that time, it appears his real motivation is self-serving.

Chris McGrory
McGrory Glass
Aston, Pa. 

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth
Dear USGlass,
On January 28, 2001, my son, a college student at the University of Oregon, was playing basketball on campus and impacted one of the wired glass panels in a set of doors at the entrance to the gym. His left arm went through the glass, lacerating four of his fingers and cutting nerves and tendons. Since his injury I have taken up the cause to better understand how a material with such a low impact strength as wired glass could be used in any area subject to human impact.

In my search for an answer, I have found that my son has not been the only victim of wired glass. I have spoken personally with parents from coast-to-coast who have fallen prey to wired glass. After reading hundreds of articles and proposals, I always get back to the same question: why is wired glass allowed to be used in human-impact areas? I resent the statements made by Thomas Zaremba on behalf of the wired-glass industry (see February USGlass, page 59) . 

Zaremba has a difficult time with the whole truth. In a number of articles he has identified himself as a consultant to the wired-glass industry. The truth of the matter is Zaremba should identify himself as the attorney of record for the wired glass industry.

Zaremba states that a company which manufactures an alternative fire-rated product to wired glass by the name of O'Keeffe's Inc. (a.k.a. SAFTI) stands a lot to gain in market share if his attacks on wired glass are successful. The truth is that the wired- glass industry controls 85 percent of the fire-rated glazing market in the United States alone and that represents eight million square feet of wired glass installed in the United States each year. It is not difficult for me to understand who has what to gain or lose.

Zaremba stated in an August 2000 glass publication that "despite the excellent safety record of wired glass there have only been a handful of reported injuries worldwide and none of these have been substantiated."

I find Zaremba's statement to be incredulous. As a consultant to the glass industry for the last 20 years and as an experienced attorney, I'm sure Zaremba can do the legal research to find such cases as: Talcott v. Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Board of Education, 1986 WL 13349 Ohio APP.; Bielaska et al v. Town of Waterford et al, 491 A.2D 1071; Cabell v. State of California, 67 C.2d 150; 60 Cal.Rptr. 476, 430 P.2d 34; Hall v. State et al, Case No. C327969, Superior Court of Arizona, County of Pima; Clary v. Alexander County Board of Education, 286 N.C. 525, 212 S.E.2D 160; Anselmo v. Clark County School District et al, Case No. A311072, District Court, Clark County, Nevada; Palmer and Kerr v. Andrews University, Case No. 99-4160-NO-M, Berrien County Trial Court, Michigan. These are just a few of the many court cases involving wired-glass injuries, and there are numerous cases that never made it into a courtroom.

Perhaps Zaremba does not want to believe that injuries exist because publicity about such things will impact the bottom line of this multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Indeed, as he states in the August 2000 article, ". . .one manufacturer of an alternative glazing product has attempted to drastically impact the marketplace for wired glass." One can only assume that he is referencing the work of O'Keeffe's Inc. of San Francisco, whose representative, Kate Steel, serves on the ANSI Z97.1 committee and who wrote a counterpoint article in the same magazine. O'Keeffe's has been a tireless advocate in attempting to bring justice and fairness to the ANSI Z97. 1 process.

Zaremba claims that wired glass complies with ANSI Z97.1. May I remind him that I have test data that shows that it does not comply with ANSI Z97.1 and he needs only to ask John Kent, chair of the ANSI Z97.1 review committee and administrator of the Safety Glazing Certification Council this question. Kent witnessed impact testing which Advocates for Safe Glass had performed in Courtland, N.Y., on February 7, 2002, in which Pilkington wired glass failed to comply with ANSI Z97.1 100-ft. lb. impact load.

Also, Zaremba is aware that it was the same CPSC that he refers to quite often that stated that the ANSI Z97.1 100-ft.-lb. impact load was unacceptable to protect anyone over the age of five years from impact with wired glass.

Zaremba stated in the February issue of USGlass that the ICC's ad hoc committee permitted O'Keeffe's and its witnesses nearly a full day and a half to present all of their anti-wired glass rhetoric and evidence. Once again, the truth of the matter is that the ad hoc committee met twice. Once in Cincinnati for seven hours and once in Greensboro for three hours. In total, the two meetings lasted less than a day and a half in their entirety. O'Keeffe's did not have a day-and-a-half to state its case as he stated.

After all, if O'Keeffe's took the entire day-and-a-half for their argument, when was it that the Glazing Industry Code Committee, the wired-glass industry and other interested parties had all of this time to develop proposed revisions to the International Building Code to regulate wired glass in athletic facilities and educational occupancies (a revision for which Zaremba takes credit).

Zaremba, in closing I wish to refer you to your inconsistent and conflicting representations: first, there were no injuries; then, a "handful;" then, the injuries were caused by the injured parties; then, it was a misapplication of the wired glass.

Zaremba, you have the ability to go on and on but one thing still remains—"the bleeding has not stopped," and will not until wired glass is removed from hazardous locations.
Greg Abel 
Advocates for Safe Glass
Eugene, Oregon

Member of "Old School" Speaks out on Wired Glass
Dear USGlass,
I have been in the glass industry for many years. I never thought I would say this, but I admit, I am from the old school. Since the age of 7 (I'm 70 now), I have been cutting and installing glass at my dad's shop in Brooklyn, N.Y. I have learned to do take-offs and estimating/sales in commercial and building projects. (I'm still doing this actively.) 

Many years ago they used wired glass for showers and tub enclosures. Haven't we learned from that experience that wired glass is dangerous—so much so that I was of the opinion that it was as bad, if not worse, than plate glass. We have to understand that wired glass was originally used for steel security sash set into putty with steel clips to hold it in place until the putty hardened, but the size of that glass was small and was a deterrent for thieves and burglars. We should stop the use of wired glass in all buildings where the application is next to a door or sidelite or as vision glass in all corridors as a fire-rated glass (with a 45-minute rating). Yes, we have a ceramic-type glass we can use and I am thankful for it being in existence because it is doing what it was intended to do—stop fires from spreading. In the application in which it is used in fire-rated corridors, also sidelites to doors, where it is a safety-type "ceramic" laminated we have seen less injuries than with wired glass. How many schools with these so-called safety vision wired glass inserts have had accidents with kids putting their hands through these so-called safety glass lites. It is time we called an end to the building department's sanctioning of wired glass in safety applications and only use it for fire walls with all of the glass no larger than 4 square feet or below. We all know fire-rated ceramic is expensive and general contractors would love to be the heroes and save big bucks by sticking in wired glass where ceramic glass should go. Everyone in the glass industry should get behind Bill O'Keefe with his determination to rid our industry with this false sense of safety. It is time!

Martin Coleman
All City Glass Inc.
Las Vegas, Nev.

European Manufacturer Weighs in on the Wired Glass "Debate"
Dear USGlass, 
As a fire glass manufacturer based in Europe, we have been following the debate between the wired-glass and safety lobbies for several months. This is a serious matter and our comments are not, in any way, seeking to deny the existence of the problem.

In many aspects of our glass industry, the world seems a small place, with good technology ideas being transferred, licensed or copied in a very short time.
But in this current fire-glass/wired- glass debate, we really do feel that we in Europe have "been there, done it and are already wearing the T-shirts."

The use of imbedded wired glass is widespread in the United Kingdom (UK), where one of its manufacturers is based. However, the waiver on fire glass, which is not impact-safe, was removed from England in the early 1990s, due partially to pressure from safety groups and the new availability of non-compromise fire/safety glass products.

These “new” products fall into several categories, which include:
• Thicker wire/thicker glass—in the imbedded wired product, which will achieve the UK minimum impact level of the 12-inch ball drop (equivalent to ANSI Z97.1).
• Laminated wired—a unique process to produce Pyroguard wired, by combining wire and resin interlayers which will achieve 18-inch ball drop (category 1).
• Wire-free fire glasses #1—bespoke manufactured, tempered products, which can achieve category 2 impact easily but may be limited to steel frame details and non-hose stream fire usage.
• Wire-free fire glasses #2—tempered outer, reactive gel-filled, which can do it all—up to 120-minute fire plus hose-stream. However, this is only made in Europe currently and is shipped piece-by-piece.
• Wire-free fire glasses #3—stock-size produced, reactive interlayer laminated glasses, which can be held in stock locally and easily cut-to-size (thicker, longer time zones may need to be saw-cut).

Our company purchased the Pyroguard product range in 1994, which is manufactured in the UK and exported to many international markets. Pyroguard is a special resin-laminate in the number-three range.

For the United States, we have tested both Pyroguard wired and Pyroguard clear (non-wired) successfully for 20-minute fire stoppage in wood and steel. Both products achieve category 1 impact standard and are simple three-ply laminates, which can be held in stock and cut; no filming, no coatings, no edge tape—just cut and go.

The safety debate is a real one but the products to solve the apparent dilemma are already invented, tested and stocked in the United States.

We hope that by the communicative means of your journal, we can make this knowledge more widespread.
Tom Ritchie
CGI International Ltd.

For additional letters sent to USG regarding the Wire Glass Debate, click here.


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