Volume 8, Issue 5, September-October 2004
A Move to Design
Film Becomes more Than Just Attachments
by Les Shaver
When Scott Haddock, president of GlassLock, Inc. in San Jose, Calif., first started installing security films 15 years ago many security installers thought it was enough to just apply security film to windows in daylight applications.
Now security film installers are concentrating on window design.
“It’s no longer just walking in and slapping up film and an attachment,” Haddock said. “The last thing you want to do is put film and attachments on if the existing frames and anchorage can’t withstand the load and retrofit and that you’ve done.”
The federal government has realized the need for more complete window solutions, as well. Many of its new proposals call for film companies to bring in outside contractors to determine exactly how much of blast a window can contain. Unfortunately, many private companies still ignore window protection because of price concerns.
Nick Routh, a security film consultant for Bekaert Specialty Films in Clearwater, Fla., thinks the push for more complete design solutions started with more stringent federal government requirements. On a recent bid for the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency wanted the film company to inspect each window frame to ensure that it was anchored well.
“It’s a pretty good idea because you look at a window in a wall and you usually don’t know what’s holding it in there,” he said. “You put on a safety treatment and it may pull the whole frame down because there were only two or three metal screws holding it in.”
Carole Borow, president of CHB Industries in Smithtown, NY, says her firm has always been cognizant of the blast loads a window can handle.
“I’ve always insisted that a structural engineer look at the window, particularly if they were doing anything with attachments,” she said. “Why make something stronger than the building is or why make a weak connection more deadly?”
In many older buildings, the importance of outside consultants can’t be underestimated.
“In old buildings, you don’t know how these things are put in there,” Routh explained.
When Borow’s company tackled the Javits Center in New York City, it encountered pivot windows.
Unfortunately, the client no longer had the architectural drawings for the building. This led to an extensive process trying to determine what was in the window.
“The result was we sent someone in to take apart a wall and look to see how well things were attached,” Borow said. “We had to blow up windows to make sure the panes would not cause a hazard.”
Footing The Bill
Fortunately, Borow’s client wanted to pay for this extensive work. Not all private companies will.
“Most of our clients won’t spend the money to get the level of protection they’re looking for,” said Jeff Bays, owner of Accent Window Solution, in Austin, Tex. “We’ve done estimates, but they stick with edge-to-edge applications on lower windows.”
Bays admits that risk level for New York City and Austin are different. But, with all of the state government buildings in Austin, he’s a bit disturbed.
“I don’t understand why it’s so hard to explain to people the importance of having safety film when federal buildings are around,” he said.
When Haddock runs into a customer who can’t afford the top-level amount of protection, he will work backwards to find the most cost effective solution.
“You start checking things off and giving them the next best hazard mitigation system,” he said.
Choosing A Path
If the building frames are very strong and the building owner has money to spend (or is in a high-threat area), mechanical attachments may be the way to go. With these, the film is held to the glass and frame by a mechanical system, which is often screwed in.
They can be difficult to apply though.
“You have to take film and make a good fold,” Routh said. “If you don’t make a good fold when you put mechanical back bar on, you can throw fingers in to film.”
Film installers may also choose with a wet glaze or adhesive system. An installer puts a ½-inch of caulk on the window and ½-inch on the film.
“If you don’t do it right, it can get ugly in a hurry,” Routh said.
But the dangers of poor installation go beyond cosmetic problems.
“A lot of people just use a ¼-inch bead of silicone and that’s good for nothing,” Borow said.
In an ideal world, a film installer would attach these devices to all four sides of the window. But often, the window frame can’t handle the blast load if all four sides are fastened. For this reason, film applicators will only attach one or two sides.
The lowest level of installation is daylight, where the security film is applied to a window similar to the way a solar film would be. During a blast it would hold the window together. Unfortunately, the result would just be a huge window taking flight.
To lasso the window, many people are installing catch systems which include bars that run horizontally in front of the window, cables and curtains.
Not everyone is as big a fan of these systems.
“Our testing shows no great advantage to it,” Routh said. “If you run a catchbar, it will catch the film and hang on. … you are still throwing glass into the room and glass is coming out.”
With every system, you need to be aware of something unique. It takes a team of experts who must know what they’re doing.
“It scares me to death that so many people think they should be installing security film,” Borow said. “If their installations don’t work, people will get hurt.”
© Copyright 2004 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.