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How Fire-resistant Glass Can Help Architects Break Down Walls

16 Oct 2018
Fire safety is understandably a primary concern for building designers. But protecting our built environment against the risk of fire doesn’t have to come at the expense of creating bright and airy spaces.

The benefits of natural light in homes, schools and workplace are becoming increasingly well known.

In fact, a pan-European survey by Paris’ Sorbonne University found that exposure to daylight can boost academic performance in schools, improving outcomes by as much as 15 per cent when students work in classrooms with larger windows.

But, while installing more glass in properties is the obvious choice for achieving light and airy spaces, the need to protect against the spread of fire can often pose problems when it comes to specifying glass.

Where the proposed glazing is positioned in a location where regulations require there to be protection against the spread of fire – around internal stairwells or corridors, or externally where other buildings are in close proximity – standard glazing is not an option.

This was the challenge for developer Meritcape when it set out to refurbish 1 Aylesbury Street – a converted historic warehouse building in densely urban Clerkenwell, East London.

The architect wanted to fill every floor with natural light, from both the front and the back, by using floor-to-ceiling glazing throughout. However, the rear of the property was just three metres away from a neighbouring building, so fire protection was needed to reduce the risk of fire spreading between the two.

In years gone by, there would have been no choice but to design in a solid wall with only small windows to provide the appropriate level of protection.

However, advances in fire-resistant glazing mean it is now possible to remove this wall and use floor-to-ceiling glazing instead.

At Aylesbury Street, Pilkington Pyroclear™ Plus was used. As well as sealing in flames and smoke for at least an hour, the glass also provides radiation shielding that reduces the amount of heat energy that can pass outwards through the glass – another key means of spreading fire.

This is just one of many projects Pilkington has been involved in that demonstrates the big difference fire-resistant glazing can make. It allowed the designer to create a stunning property with a light-filled space in a very built-up part of the city, without compromising on fire protection.

The links between natural light and positive effects including increased levels of health, happiness and cognitive function are increasingly clear. So, it’s not just safety benefits that fire-resistant glazing can deliver – it can boost occupants’ wellbeing too.