2012 IBC Changes to Make FRG Specification Easier
August 23, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji

Photo: Fred Kopf.

For the first time, the 2012 International Building Code (IBC) has provided a guide advising where to use fire-protective versus fire-resistive glazing (FRG) in door, window and wall assemblies. The revised Chapter 7 tables now clearly address size limits and appropriate FRG applications in interior and exterior walls, and exit enclosures and passageways. The new tables help professionals specify the correct glazing for FRG assemblies, and avoid the misuse of FRG products listed by testing agencies for end uses that the IBC prohibits.

These provisions are not new, says Diana San Diego, director of marketing for SAFTI FIRST in San Francisco. Rather, "These are … a clarification of the 2006 and 2009 editions of the IBC," she explains. "Even though the new tables will not be adopted locally until jurisdictions accept the 2012 IBC, they are useful today in understanding the 2006 and 2009 IBC glazing requirements."

The requirements contained in the new tables have been in effect since the 2006 IBC, and conform to what the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provided in the 1999 and 2007 NFPA 80 editions, which are incorporated by reference in the 2012 IBC.

"This will benefit architects immensely as they select the correct fire-rated glass product for their application," San Diego says. "This helps glaziers, too, because they can have a better understanding of the types of fire-rated glass products that they are installing."

Devin Bowman, national sales manager at Technical Glass Products in Snoqualmie, Wash., agrees: "For fire-rated glass manufacturers and suppliers, the updated tables help clarify use of materials," he says. "Depending on how they promoted their products, this could require changes in product literature to be consistent with the latest codes. Manufacturers and suppliers will also need to use the new marking system, but that is a relatively straightforward change."

Bowman emphasizes that it's important to pay attention to glass size limits, and to understand where "fire protection" and "fire resistance" rated products are allowed. He explains, "Fire protection glazing defends against the spread of flames and smoke, while fire resistance glazing also blocks heat transfer. This is a critical distinction as the higher level of protection is necessary in certain instances such as exit passageways and for fire walls and fire barriers."

The same marking system for fire resistance and fire protection rated glazing also was included in the 2012 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, says Thomas S. Zaremba, an industry consultant and partner for Roetzel & Andress in Toledo, Ohio.

There is significant value to having this marking system in place in the codes, Zaremba says. "Through the new marking system, the table now shows exactly how fire-rated glazing must be marked in virtually every application where fire-rated glazing is required."

At its next meeting, the ICC's Code Technology Committee is planning to review the changes made to the fire-rated glazing provisions in the last meeting to determine whether any additional changes may be required. "Perhaps using a single table for both fire-rated windows and fire-rated doors in the IBC will be considered for the 2015 edition of the IBC," Zaremba says.

The new code also simplifies the fire-rated glazing label scheme by reducing the number of markings for where the glass can be used and which tests it has passed, Bowman says. Marks now include 'W' for fire-resistance-rated glazing meeting wall assembly criteria; 'OH' for glass meeting fire window assembly criteria, including the hose stream test; 'D' for glass meeting fire door assembly criteria; 'H' for glass meeting the fire door assembly hose stream test; and 'T' for glazing meting temperature rise criteria. As before, a two- or three-digit number shows the fire rating in minutes.

Another important change in the 2012 IBC is clarification in Section 703.4 that automatic sprinklers are not allowed during fire-rated materials testing. Fire ratings for glass and other building materials must be earned based on their own performance, and not as protected by supplemental systems. "This provides an additional margin of safety for building occupants in the event sprinklers fail during a real-world fire," Bowman says.

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