It’s fair to say that specifying fire resistant glass can be a bit of a minefield. How do you meet the aesthetic requirements of your brief without compromising on fire safety? How can you be confident that you’ve selected the right product? Here, we look at some key design issues to consider when specifying fire rated glass partitions and doors. We all like to work in an environment that is spacious and flooded in natural daylight. Glazed partitions and doors are an excellent way of creating the ideal workplace for employee wellbeing. Since the concept of ‘frameless’ glazing was first embraced, we have been at the vanguard of cutting edge design in glass partitioning systems. We believe they should look good and be capable of delivering exceptional performance in terms of stability and acoustic privacy. Our highly skilled design teams are constantly striving for improvements to our renowned product range with market-leading acoustic capability. The practice of using glass partitions for high quality fit-outs is well established. However, it’s not as straightforward where fire resistant glass is required. Compartmentation and protection of safe routes have always been seen as the job of solid walls and timber doors. However, recent advancements in glass technology have changed this. Consequently, specifiers are increasingly looking to incorporate the openness of glass into their fire resistant requirements. Our Technishield range of doors and glass partitioning systems offers complete coverage. From glass doors providing 30 minutes integrity only fire resistance to glass partitions offering up to 2 hours integrity and insulation, we’ve got it covered. Considerations for Full Height Fire Rated Glass Partitions But of course, it’s not that simple. Recent tragic events have brought the use of fire resistant construction products sharply into focus. Their use needs to be carefully and responsibly managed. It is not just a case of replacing an area of solid wall construction with fire resistant glass. A solid wall will typically span between structural floors, providing a complete fire barrier. Glazing, however, will typically span between the false ceiling and the finished floor; often a raised access floor. It will also not necessarily form the entirety of the length of the compartmentation. A typical fire resistant glass partition will span between two areas of solid wall. This is where the use of fire rated glass needs to be carefully managed. The zones above and below the glazing must be independently fire rated to at least an equivalent standard. The interfaces between the zones of protection must satisfy the requirements of the respective system fire certifications. The weight of the glazing also needs to be taken into account. A glass screen 3 metres high offering 60 minutes integrity and insulation could weigh more than 200kg per linear metre. The floor construction must be capable of supporting that kind of load under fire conditions. The same is true with vertical abutments. The wall construction must be compatible with the tested nature of the fire rated glazing system. We work closely with glass manufacturers to ensure the correct glass product is used in every instance. Architects and designers can specify our Technishield range with confidence, complying with the requirements of Approved Document B (AD B). Incorporating Fire Resistant Glass Doors So much for AD B. But what about Approved Document M (AD M)? Yes, it is possible to incorporate fire rated glass doors into large areas of fire resistant glazing. However, their primary function is to act as a fire barrier when required to do so. That means that they must be capable of being closed, without manual intervention, when there is a fire. They are still required to satisfy AD M wherever they are intended to offer freedom of movement around the building. This is particularly important for fire rated glass doors on heavy circulation routes within compartment walls, or partitions providing compartmentation. Self-Closing Devices Not only are glazed fire doors heavy, but they will be installed with a self-closing device like an overhead closer. They can, therefore, require an operating force to open them in excess of the acceptable level stipulated in AD M. Many sprung door closing devices will rightly claim that they can comply with AD M. However, it should be noted that this is only possible under certain conditions. Their use on heavy glazed fire doors will fall outside of those conditions. The needs of a fire door to self-close can also be hindered by ambient conditions. For example, there may be a significant disparity in air flow on opposite sides of the door. This can often require a closing device to be increased in its closing force to ensure the door shuts securely. This further hampers the operability of the door in normal use. AD M is very clear on the subject. In stating its preference for there to be no doors at all, it recognises that doors are often necessary. With an emphasis on fire doors, it recommends that they are held open and released only in the event of a fire. Alternatively, it suggests that they are provided with an automated means of assisted opening. This needs to be considered as early as possible in the design process. It’s easier to budget for AD M compliance at the start of the process, rather than at the end. Fire rated doors on circulation routes are often required to include some form of access control. Again, this needs to be carefully considered, as not all systems are compatible with fire rated glass doors. Specify with Confidence There’s no denying that this is a very complex subject, but specifying fire resistant glass needn’t fill you with dread. At Optima, we go to great lengths to ensure we understand the issues and can offer solutions to them. So let us help you to specify and deliver with confidence. Contact our technical team and feel assured that your chosen products not only look impressive but also comply with all necessary fire safety performance criteria.