by Thomas S Zaremba
The latest building code cycle has brought forth important changes that are now in place. The glazings in educational occupancies and athletic facilities must meet either the category I or II impact-performance requirements. In most cases, access corridors in educational occupancies now require at least a 45-minute fire rating. Another new change is that nonsymmetrical glazing products must be tested in both directions and will be listed in accordance to the side with the shortest duration. The new codes accept fire-resistant walls made from clear glazing materials, typically multi-laminates of glass and intumescent materials. The importance of the fire-resistant products is that they block the dangerous, radiant heat that is not stopped by the fire-protection products.
The 2003 editions of both the International Building Code (IBC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 5000 will require fire-rated glazings found in hazardous locations in educational occupancies to meet either the category I or II impact-performance requirements specified in 16 C.F.R. § 1201. Both model building codes will also require that glazing material used anywhere in an athletic facility meet CPSC’s category II impact-performance requirements. In addition to these new impact-safety requirements, with some exceptions, glazings used in exit access corridors in educational occupancies must also have a fire-resistant rating of at least 45 minutes. This means that wired glass will no longer be permitted to be installed in educational occupancies (K-12) or athletic facilities.
There are products available on the market now that not only deliver superior fire performance, but also provide category I and Category II safety-glazing performance. This is important because both the IBC and NFPA 5000 have adopted these additional safety-performance requirements applicable to glazings used in educational occupancies and athletic facilities.
Some nonsymmetrical glazings on the market today are directional. That is, they can only provide protection if a fire attacks the glazing from its coated side. Until now, there was nothing other than fine print in the listing to warn of this important limitation on the product’s performance.
To make it clear that nonsymmetrical glazing systems may not receive higher fire-protection ratings than are warranted, both the IBC and the NFPA adopted virtually identical provisions. The IBC provision reads as follows:
“714.3.2 Nonsymmetrical glazing systems. Nonsymmetrical fire protection-rated glazing systems in fire partitions, fire barriers or in exterior walls with a fire separation of 5 feet or less pursuant to Section 704 [IBC], shall be tested with both faces exposed to the furnace, and the assigned fire-protection rating shall be the shortest duration obtained from the two tests conducted in compliance with NFPA 257.”
Clear, fire-rated glazing materials are available that meet the fire-resistance ratings required by § 703 of the IBC for fire-resistance-rated walls. Typically, a fire-rated product composed of glass laminates and an intumescent material will meet the requirements. These products are fire-rated from 20 to 120 minutes. Products that do not meet the requirements are subject to the 25-percent area and other limitations applicable to “opening protectives.”
Section 714.2 of the IBC now makes it clear that these clear glazing materials are not subject to the limitations otherwise applicable to most other types of fire rated glazings:
“714.2 Fire-resistance-rated glazing. Labeled fire-resistance-rated glazing tested as part of a fire-resistance-rated wall assembly in accordance with ASTM E 119 shall not be required to comply with this section.”
When designing or installing glazing materials that require fire-resistance ratings, it is critical that only approved systems are used. This includes not only the glass, but the frame, bead and fixings. It is also important to install the systems exactly as approved.
Thomas S. Zaremba is an attorney for Pilkington in Toledo, Ohio. He has represented Pilkington in connection with the development of building codes and standards for the last ten years.