Fired Up Blog

Fire-Rated Glass and Framing Blog from TGP

Looking for a candid resource on all things fire-rated? Interact, discuss and gain new insights on trends, codes and design solutions for the fire-rated glass and framing industry.

Push to Remove Old School Wired Glass in Canada

Learn about the risks that fire-rated wired glass in Canadian schools pose to students and how schools no longer have to choose fire safety over impact safety. [More]

Code Trade-offs: A Problem, Not a Solution

In 1984, the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry reprinted a letter to the editor of Dallas Morning News titled: “In Dallas, TX, the Move to Rely on Sprinklers for Fire Protection as an Acceptable ‘Trade Off’ Comes Under Question.” Nearly three decades later, this topic remains heavily debated: Are code trade-offs a solution or a problem? Let’s take a look at the trade-off that allows E-occupancies to have exit corridors with no fire rating when sprinklers are in place. The theory behind this allowance is shifting dollars from building compartmentation to sprinklers provides students and teachers with effective protection against fire. But taking into account the prevalence of school fires, the special challenges of emergencies in school environments, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics showing a one-in-ten failure rate for sprinklers, this trade-off is a cloaked risk. As the author of the 1984 letter to the editor said: “Trade-offs of life safety features are not justified for economic reasons if public welfare is a consideration…” To reverse this allowance, the GICC and Primary Fire Rated Glazing Manufacturers submitted proposal E121-12 during the 2012/2013 ICC code review cycle. Although the committee disapproved the proposal, proponents are now asking the membership to revisit and adopt E121-12 “as submitted.”  Here are a few reasons why proponents are imploring the adoption of this important code change proposal.    Committee conclusion for disapproval of change: Fire data show current school design has one of the best safety records for life and property. In fact, the data show: ·    There are a large number of school fires annually (an average of 6,260 structure fires between 2005 and 2009) ·    School structure fires have a significantly higher number of injuries per 1,000 fires than other non-residential occupancies ·    School fires cause millions of dollars in property damage every year ·    According to a 2010 NFPA report, sprinklers fail approximately 10 percent of the time So much it seems for “one of the best safety records”… Committee conclusion for disapproval of change: Adding fire-rated exit corridors would lead to a significant increase in cost without “sufficient justification.” However, the reality is a recent report from the SSOE Group debunks the committee’s ‘convenient’ cost myth used to justify their misguided decision. The architecture firm found that the cost of adding fire-rated exit corridors to sprinklered schools was less than 2 percent of the total building costs for the three schools in the study. These are real school designs from a leading architecture firm, not some outdated model from an inexperienced consultant. And when it comes down to it, isn’t the relatively small cost increment worth the improved protection for students and faculty? Committee conclusion for disapproval of change: “[t]he increase in cost would not just be walls, but would also include fire-rated doors, fire dampers, etc.” This statement suggests proponents presented data that only included the added costs of fire rating exit corridors. As one public commenter said, “The Committee misunderstood the data that was presented because it clearly included all costs necessary to completely fire rated the exit corridors of all three schools, including their walls, doors, windows, fire dampers, etc.” Ironic we require more passive fire protection features in some other structures like government buildings or offices then we do our schools. Considering our kids and the professionals who serve these facilities, perhaps the ICC committee should rethink their phrase ‘sufficient justification’ before they vote next time. 

What Radio Frequency Technology can Teach us About Fire and Life Safety

I recently read an article about how a group of researchers at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering are developing a new tool that uses radio frequency technology to monitor the real-time movements of people and equipment on construction sites.  If a worker or piece of equipment gets too close to an edge or predetermined hot spot, the tool triggers an alarm to alert the worksite.   Over the course of a decade, it’s not hard to imagine how this system could save time and money, not to mention lives.  The tool increases worker awareness to improve decision-making.  This in turn helps prevents accidents and costly mistakes. Although no such tool exists in the fire-rated glazing industry, it’s good to be reminded of the benefits of increased awareness in our field.  Code councils and testing laboratories lay down the parameters of fire-rated construction, but at the end of the day, there is room for quite a bit of variation in code-compliant designs.  Since it’s up to you to judge which materials best meet the performance criteria, actively staying up-to-date and educated about the latest fire-rated codes and products is central to providing a higher level of fire and life safety protection.  What can you do to stay on top of the best fire and life safety design practices?  Here are some ideas.  ·         Purchase the most recent IBC.  You don’t have to use an outdated version of the code just because your state or local jurisdiction does.  ·         Follow the latest code developments related to fire-rated glazing and safety. USGlass and Glass magazine both cover industry developments online.  ·         When was the last time you read, or even skimmed, chapters five, six and seven of the IBC? Set aside some time and read up on alarms, sprinklers, ingress and egress.  ·         Visit Underwriter Laboratories’ Online Certifications Directory and Ultimate Fire Wizard Database.  ·         Look through the latest research on the National Fire Protection Association website.  ·         Ask architects, glaziers, specifiers, suppliers and code consultants questions.  You can learn a lot from your peers.    Have another suggestion? Add it in the comments section below.