Volume 48, Issue 9- September 2013


Then and Now: A Look at the Evolution in Wired Glass Usage
The International Building Code (IBC) was revised in 2006 to prohibit traditional wired glass in hazardous locations. Previously the 2003 version of the IBC had removed its use from educational and athletic facilities; prior to that wired glass was exempt from meeting Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety glazing requirements where used in a fire assembly in hazardous locations.

Most jurisdictions today are enforcing these current code editions—with the exception of at least one notable city. Chicago still allows the use of traditional wired glass, even in hazardous locations. Hazardous locations aside, what you may or may not be aware is that traditional wired glass is also still legal when used in applications that do not require safety glass.

“You can still use wired glass in interior and exterior applications so long as they are not hazardous locations,” says Thom Zaremba, an industry consultant.

Jeff Griffiths, director of business development with Safti First in San Francisco, says that when considering use of wired glass in a non-hazardous location, design professionals need to be aware of the low-impact resistance and dangerous breakage pattern of wired glass

It’s also important to note that the code only applies to new construction or replacement work. There is no requirement to change out wired glass from existing installations.

“If wired glass is used in a hazardous location and it breaks it has to be replaced to the current code,” says Zaremba. “But, if it is not being replaced then it is a legitimate application as it is grandfathered in.”

Speaking of pre-code applications where wired glass may still be in use, Griffiths adds, “Building owners should survey wired glass applications in the building and implement a replacement program, identifying the highest risk installations first. School and college athletic facilities should be targeted, as well as college dormitories, school corridors and other high traffic areas.”

Zaremba points out, anyone supplying wired glass in the market today is most likely affixing a special fire-rated window film. By applying the film, the glass can then be used in hazardous locations where wired glass would otherwise be prohibited.

It’s important to understand, though, that simply applying a safety film on existing wired glass is not the solution.

“This in itself is a violation of building codes that prohibit the modification of any fire-rated product by field personnel without the authorization and supervision of both the testing agency and the manufacturer,” says Griffiths.

What about existing applications that still incorporate traditional wired glass installed prior to code revisions? Because code changes are not retroactively applied, Griffiths says special legislation by state, local or federal government would be needed to mandate replacement of existing wired glass.

When it comes to making sure the appropriate glass type is used in the appropriate applications, Griffiths says the installer is primarily responsible for code compliance.

“Secondary responsibility falls on the individual’s supervisor, the building official, the architect, the building owner, etc.,” he says.

He adds that architects should make sure their building material specifications have been updated to limit specifications of wired glass to areas where the code does not require safety glazing.



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