Prices still too high for most fire-rated glass
School administrators can’t come up with the funds
The cost for most alternative fire- and impact-rated glass products remains prohibitive for many school districts, reported architects attending a Sept. 14 Capitol Hill symposium on wired glass in schools.
“It becomes an issue of value engineering,” said Dale Santee, principal at The Architectural Studio in Allentown, Pa. “Alternative production costs are quite high. So, what we need to do is ask ourselves: ‘What can we do to provide vision security while reducing the cost?’ ”
Santee was one of seven presenters at the Safety in Our Schools symposium attended by about 20 industry representatives, lawmakers and insurers, and sponsored by Advocates for Safe Glass of Eugene, Ore.
Santee said he no longer specifies wired glass in school design, but because alternative fire-rated products cost more than wired glass, he often elects for less glazing using an impact- and fire-rated alternative product, or no glass at all.
For example, for an interior hall door, Santee might specify a much smaller sidelite with alternative fire-rated glass to keep visibility but save on costs, or eliminate the door glass and install an automatic closing device. The door with no glass would remain open at all times, but would automatically shut in an emergency.
“Members of [the glass] industry are at a point where they need to start looking at how they can bring costs down,” he said. “Manufacturers have some work to do.”
In his presentation, Len Brunette, president and general manager for Vetrotech Saint-Gobain in Auburn, Wash., recognized the cost limitations of alternative fire-glass products. However, Brunette said those prices fall as more players enter the market and as these products become mainstream.
“From a budget standpoint, this definitely needs to be addressed,” Brunette said. “These products are obviously going to be more expensive [than wired glass], but we’re beginning to see prices come down from all manufacturers. It’s just a matter of time.”
Architects and school officials can limit the cost of using wired glass alternatives by carefully determining the locations for the products and making sure to specify the appropriate types of fire-glass products, Brunette said.
Fire-glass products can have ratings ranging from 20 minutes to three hours, and come in thicknesses of ¼- to 2½-inches, he said. Specifying the best products for the best locations, rather than just using uniform products, can help school districts save money.
Click here to read more about the wired glass symposium.