At its most basic form, fire rated glass is glass that has proven to offer protection in the face of fire. Traditional glass provides minuscule fire protection, breaking when the temperature reaches approximately 121° C. Though tempered glass can last a little longer, up to about 260°C, fire-rated glass has been designed to withstand much higher temperatures in an emergency.
Standard fire-rated glass can survive heat above 871° C. That's a noteworthy improvement in performance from standard or even-tempered glass. Since any flame can reach scorching temperatures fast, resistant glass for fire stopping is an obvious need.
How Is Fire Rated Glass Determined?
Any glass that is advertised as fire-rated must pass a host of tests established by national test standards. Independent labs run the tests, then assign an appropriate rating based on the results. The ratings are categorised in time, reflecting how long the material endured the heat in testing. So if a product has a 45-minute rating, the expectation is you could be confident in its ability to retain heat and thick smoke for the first 45 minutes of a fire.
Once any glass has been taken through the ruthless testing phase, it is assigned its fire rating. Ratings can run from 20 minutes to 3 hours, giving varying degrees of time for occupants of any building to escape before the fire can travel through the glass. Ratings alone don't dictate which type of fire-rated glass is meant for you on the market today. Each has unique characteristics, guaranteeing that there’ll be a material best suited for your budget and your needs!
What Are The Types Of Fire Rated Glass?
Despite all the variety, you can organise the category of fire-rated glass straightforwardly. No matter how fancy it may appear, or whatever rating it may have been presented, all glasses fall under the four following categories:
Fire Tempered Glass
Fire tempered or toughened glass has become a popular material for basic fire safety. It is completely clear and without any wires while being cheap to manufacture and easy to install! Its ability to withstand high impact also makes the material attractive for rough door applications. However, fire tempered glass does have downfalls that are worth considering.
Fire tempered glass will not perform the same as wired glass or transparent wall units when water is present. The slightest stream of water from a sprinkler hitting your glass will cause the material to fall from its frame in a fire, and it can’t provide any resistance from the ground. For this reason, fire tempered glass has only achieved a rating of 20-minutes.
Polished Wired Glass
Polished wired glass has earned a more impressive rating than specially tempered glass, at 45-minutes of burning time. Though this may seem slight compared to modern materials, wired glass is one of the most affordable applications and one of the most traditional too. Buildings across the UK have been fitted with fire doors and safety wired glass for a century, so its track record is steady.
Where wired glass fails is in its structural strength. Wired glass only meets minimal impact standards, and it's a notoriously fragile material. You can’t apply this option anywhere; you’re likely to see a lot of traffic, or it’ll shatter before a fire even occurs.
Transparent Wall Units
Transparent wall units are an entirely special category of fire-rated glass since they’re applied and tested as ‘walls’ rather than a sheet of glass. Any transparent wall unit is completely clear, exactly as standard glass. Still, its primary benefit is serious resistance to heat transfer.
Transparent wall units deny gigantic heat sources from making their way through rooms for up to 2 hours. A blaze could be rioting against one side of the material, and you’d be able to observe the fire from the opposite side without feeling any heat. The downside is a transparent wall unit is costly and only worth investing in for the likes of staircases, where staff are likely to be trapped for long periods in an emergency.
Ceramic glass is an option for fire-rated glazing that has only been readily available for the past decade. Ceramic has long been recognised for its impressive ability to withstand thermal shock. Today, you can find the material everywhere, from gas turbine engines to electronics.
Once engineers developed the expertise to craft clear ceramic, it was only natural to recognise its potential for fire-rated solid glass. It's a relatively pricey investment initially but worth every penny in security. With total transparency and wirelessness, ceramic glass is visually attractive. There are plenty of possibilities to explore different material compositions while still enjoying benefits like fire ratings for up to 3 hours, the withstanding of high impact collisions, and sound reduction.
Contact us at London Fire Solutions to learn more about the fire-resistant materials that would be suitable for your building.