GANA Fire-Rated Council Opens with Code Update
September 20, 2012

by Ellen Rogers,

Codes were the topic of discussion when the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council met for its Fall Conference session this morning. The conference is taking place all this week at the Hilton Chicago, and members today heard a fire-rated codes update, which was presented by Thom Zaremba, a consultant for GANA. He said on the fire safety front, the International Building Code (IBC) is two-thirds of the way through the cycle that closes at the end this year. Hearings will be at the end of October in Portland, Ore., and “there are a number that will be heard that affect the industry.”

Zaremba explained that for the 2012 IBC the Glazing Industry Code Committee (GICC) was involved with efforts that would clarify automatic compression systems (i.e. sprinklers) could not be used in order to create fire-resistance rating for any construction material. Previously the code permitted the use of automatic compression devices on certain glass types to establish a two-hour resistance rating. Zaremba explained that under those test requirements, specifications were taken from the furnace and “glass was simply bathed in water for a two-hour cycle,” he said. “It was never really exposed to the flame/temperature of the fire.”

Zaremba explained that GICC teamed with other groups that represent fire-rated construction materials and proposed to add language that stated sprinklers could not be used to ensure an ASTM equivalency test. However, he noted that the sprinkler industry is challenging this and is seeking to delete the revision from the 2015 code.

“We see this as a significant threat … these types of alternate ASTM test criteria can literally put fire-rated construction materials out of business,” said Zaremba. “We are taking this very seriously on behalf of the fire-rated glazing industry.”

There are also efforts to include this section in NFPA 101.

“We’re hopeful, but we will face opposition from the sprinkler industry,” added Zaremba.

There are a number of other proposals on next month’s code hearings agenda that also impact the fire-rated glazing industry. For example, there is an egress proposal that would affect the way exit corridors in educational occupancies are constructed. Currently, as long as there are sprinklers fire-rated corridors are not required. As Zaremba explained, though, “schools are special occupancies because there is a high ratio of children to adult supervision and because of that in addition to sprinklers they should also have [fire-rated materials] in the corridors.”

He explained that architectural firm SSOE recently commissioned a study that involved three schools, designed without fire-rated corridors. The firm looked at those projects and evaluated them to see what the cost would have been to design with fire-rated materials and found it would be less than 1 percent of the total cost of the building. Armed with this information, Zaremba said they now hope they will be able to dispel the “too expensive” concept during the hearings in Portland.

Other GANA groups meeting today include the Decorative and Mirror divisions. Look to all this week for updates from the event.

This story is an original story by USGlass magazine/USGNN™. Subscribe to USGlass magazine.
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