It will soon be 12 months since the Grenfell Tower disaster, and with so many lives lost, it makes you wonder how many aspects of the failings have truly been addressed? It is staggering to think that fire doors which were supposed to last 30 minutes, in fact only held the fire back for 15, according to reports. That is simply terrifying and does beg the question how many other potential hazards are on the horizon on other buildings?
As the disaster took so many lives so swiftly, there must be many who also look at similar buildings and think long and hard about their safety when entering those that clearly need refurbishment.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government recently stated that it was “working with councils across the country and private landlords” to establish how many other sites are affected; adding that public risk was considered low due to the rare occurrence of fires spreading “beyond the room of origin”
I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced but hopefully, things have started to move on to the point where occupants of these types of buildings have enough faith to feel secure and most importantly, that they are in fact – protected. Previously, the choice of fire resistant glass doors was rather paltry to say the least, with wired designs pretty much the only option out there.
Thankfully, nowadays through product advancements there is much more choice with safety wired fire glass, specially tempered fire glass, ceramic fire glass and intumescent laminated fire glass all widely available on the market.
Commercial buildings such as schools and offices still use wired glass options as it is a cost effective option for this type of application, although it does have limitations in that it will only stop flames and smoke from spreading – but these types of fire doors do not, of course, insulate against the heat and they are weakened because of how thin the wire is that’s incorporated. Being vulnerable to that is a terrifying prospect to consider if the glass does break.
Safety wired fire glass doors make a good alternative but it is said that the traditional aesthetics associated with these types of installations, do not particularly appeal to architects when specifying for large commercial projects, with them preferring instead a more modern clear, tempered or ceramic fire glass door option.
Whilst price will undoubtedly be a consideration for commercial projects tempered fire glass, ceramic fire glass and laminated fire glass doors do provide clear-glass alternatives, meeting all safety glass requirements.
As tempered fire glass is cost effective it may seem the perfect option, however due to the temperature extremes of heat from the flames, all swiftly cooled by cold water from fire hydrants and hoses, this type of product is prone to shatter. With no insulation ratings and an integrity of only 20 minutes, its use for refurbishment projects on buildings similar to Grenfell Tower, do not make it the ideal choice.
Ceramic fire glass is versatile and a very good choice with its durability and capability to handle extreme changes in temperature, making it the perfect solution for glass hob installations or fireplaces but not so much as a protection to fire, with a downside of high prices and lack of thermal insulation.
Of course, glass fire doors today are made using modern machinery and technology, that gives us personal security and enables the products to meet all our health and safety requirements. They can be tailored to fit into bespoke design projects, and are easy to install and maintain. Beautiful designs are now possible with this type of product frequently manufactured to incorporate company branding and unique design, so they meet the performance and aesthetic requirements easily.
Whilst interior glass fire doors can make a bold statement, that can add to the value of a building, modernising these types of commercial projects has to now put the occupants above the cost of the refurbishment, particularly for Grenfell Tower type renovations.
Let’s hope we are far closer to achieving that comfortable level of reassurance as refurbishment projects move forward.