Volume 37, Issue 12, December 2002


IBC Update on Wired Glass
Wired Glass Proposal Defeated
by Michael J. Pfeiffer

WIRED GLASS The International Code Council (ICC) completed its 2002 code development cycle with the final action hearings in Fort Worth, Texas, October 1 - 4, 2002. The cycle started with the initial hearings held in Pittsburgh April 8-19, 2002, with more than 1,500 proposed changes to the 13 international codes. This included hotly debated proposals related to the use of safety glazing in fire-rated doors, windows and view panels in the 2000 International Building Code (IBC), including the 2002 accumulative supplement.

Following is a summary of the issues debated and ultimately approved by the statutory members of ICC: Building Officials and Code Administrators International Inc. (BOCA), International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) and Southern Building Code Conference International (SBCCI). These changes are the direct result of the action taken by the governmental members of BOCA, ICBO and SBCCI—those with no vested interest other than the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

The number in parentheses indicates the code change number from the 2002 cycle (i.e., S187 - 02). The full text of the proposed change, along with the supporting reasons and full discussion of the issues can be downloaded from the ICC website at www.intlcode.org. The website also includes pdf files of all the code changes submitted and the resulting actions from the 2002 code development cycle.

The History
For decades, the model codes developed by BOCA (BOCA National Building Code), ICBO (Uniform Building Code) and SBCCI (Standard Building Code), have required glazing used in hazardous locations (i.e., subject to human impact), to be safety glazing. Generally, safety glazing is required to comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) standard 16 CFR 1201. An exception has also been included in these codes to allow “polished wired glass” in doors and windows that are part of a fire-resistance-rated assembly to comply with the less restrictive standard, ANSI Z 97.1. This requirement and exception has been incorporated into the 2000 International Building Code. As a result of the ongoing debate in the ICC code development process over the past two years, followed by successive appeals, the ICC board of directors established a balanced committee of interested and affected parties to study this issue. 

The issue boils down to whether the code should require all safety glazing materials to comply with the more restrictive CPSC standard and as to whether the exception for wired glass results in a reduction in impact safety due to the less restrictive pass/fail impact criteria. 

The Issues
Proponents of wired glass, namely the Glazing Industry Code Committee (GICC), maintain that the injury data alleged to be due to wired glass does not warrant a comprehensive revision to the current exception. They argue that the 37 injuries cited by “competitors to the wired-glass industry” (S187-02) do not warrant a wholesale change to the code for all applications and occupancies; rather it is their view that based on the cited injury data, 36 of the 37 injuries were associated with educational occupancies—specifically in gymnasiums and schools. The proponents believe that “the record for wired glass is good based on actual experience and the fact that many millions of square feet have been installed for more than 100 years.” Notwithstanding, the GICC supported a proposal to require glazing in hazardous occupancies in educational facilities to comply with CPSC 16 CFR 1201. All other occupancies would be permitted to have wired glass complying with ANSI Z 97.1 installed in fire doors, fire windows and view panels in fire-resistant-rated walls.

Opponents argue that such glazing, which has been accidentally impacted by children and young adults, has resulted in “severe and life threatening injuries” (S188-02). The most vocal of the opponents have been representatives from O’Keeffe’s Inc. They argue that wired glass breaks easily and exposes the wires, trapping the person’s limbs and results in further damage when the person tries to withdraw. Furthermore, they contend that the CPSC also has found wired glass to be dangerous but exempted it in 1977 (at the time of the enactment of the CPSC standard) because it was the only material available at the time that was fire-resistant. It is also the contention of the opponents of wired glass that wired glass does not meet the lower ANSI Z97.1 standard and such applications should be certified by a third-party agency (S189-02).

The Outcome
The ICC ad hoc glazing committee submitted a proposal (S187-02) to require wired glass in educational occupancies (Group E in the IBC) to comply with the CPSC standard, thus eliminating the exception in educational occupancies. This proposal was approved by the code development committee at the initial hearing in Pittsburgh and ultimately accepted by the memberships of BOCA, ICBO and SBCCI. The proposals to eliminate the exception for wired glass (S188-02) and to require third-party labeling (S189-02) were not accepted by the code development committee. 

The open process of code development employed by the ICC provides all parties the opportunity to have their concerns considered and fully debated. While the proposal to limit wired glass to non-educational occupancies was approved, the opponents to wired glass pursued their opposition to the use of wired glass and labeling to the final action hearings in Fort Worth. With more than 600 in attendance at the hearing, the issues for and against the use of wired glass were discussed in a lively debate that lasted more than 45 minutes. In the end, while a majority of the eligible voters agreed with the opponents to wired glass, the opponents failed to achieve the requisite two-thirds majority to have their proposal to delete the exception approved. The proposal to require labeling was also defeated. As a result, the 2003 International Building Code will regulate safety glazing as follows:

2406.1 Human impact loads. Individual glazed areas, including glass mirrors, in hazardous locations as defined in section 2406.3 shall comply with sections 2406.1.1 through 2406.1.5;

2406.1.1 CPSC 16 CF R 120 1. Except as provided within sections 2406.1.2 through 2406.1.5, all glazing shall pass the test requirements of CPSC 16 CF R 1201. Glazing shall comply with the CPSC 16 CFR, Part 1201 criteria for category I or category II as indicated in Table 2406.1;

2406.1.2 Wired glass. In other than Group E, wired glass installed in fire doors, fire windows and view panels in fire-resistant walls shall be permitted to comply with ANSI Z97.1;

2406.1.3 Plastic glazing. Plastic glazing shall meet the weathering requirements of ANSI Z9 7.1;

2406.1.4 Glass block. Glass block walls shall comply with Section 2101.2.4;

2406.1.5 Louvered windows and jalousies. Louvered windows and jalousies shall comply with Section 2403.5.

The 2003 IBC, along with the entire family of 2003 I-Codes, is scheduled for availability in late January/early February 2003. 

Be sure to visit the ICC website periodically for other important developments in code development, especially the new 18-month cycle that will be implemented in 2003. The 18-month cycle means that the previous three cycles of code development between editions (published every three years) will be replaced by two cycles, with a single intervening supplement. The code change deadline is March 24, 2003. 



Michael J. Pfeiffer, P.E., serves as vice president of code and standard development for the International Code Council and vice president of codes and standards for the Building Officials Code Administrators International Inc.


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