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Windows: The Entryway to Security

Written by Mark Heberlein (pictured)

Facility managers work in a world of complex security threats, so it is reassuring to know there is an ever-growing supply of products being developed and manufactured to provide advanced protection. Architectural security windows, doors, louvers and escape hatches are no exception to this trend.

In fact, they play a greater role in securing building envelopes of institutional and commercial facilities each year. They are available in a range of materials and configurations to resist an equally wide range of blast, ballistic and forced-entry attacks. But having an abundance of choices sometimes leads to confusion and problems.

In the case of specifying architectural security products, it is critical that managers have a clear understanding of the potential security threats and applicable product-testing standards before selecting a manufacturer’s solution. In addition, knowing the impact these solutions have on costs, lead times and the overall architectural design is just as important.

Must-knows for managers

Specifying fenestration products, especially for high-security applications, requires a disciplined approach to research and a willingness to collaborate with subject-matter experts to ensure a successful project. Key components of this approach include the following:

Do your research up front. “There’s no shortage of standards when it comes to testing fenestration products. Completing a thorough risk analysis up front is key to identifying the specific threats on a given project and the corresponding levels of protection needed for resistance,” says Mark Heberlein, architectural security products manager with Ross Technology Corp. “Once that data has been compiled, selecting the appropriate testing standards becomes a much more straightforward process. For example, if you know the perceived threats are mob-level, forced-entry attacks and rifle-level ballistics, then standards developed for testing smash-and-grab assaults and hand gun fire can safely be eliminated.”

Knowing needs. Before finalizing a performance standard, designers and managers also should verify that there are products capable of meeting its requirements. This is particularly important in the case of combined threats. Architectural security products are engineered and tested to very distinct blast, ballistic and forced-entry conditions. When multiple threat types and levels are called for, the list of products that have been tested to those conditions can be minimal or even non-existent. In addition, fenestration products can be limited by the nature of design. For instance, even a highly secure forced-entry/ballistic-resistant door is limited in the amount of blast rebound it can withstand because of hardware constraints.

Another important research consideration is the evaluation of costs and lead times to ensure projects remain on schedule and on budget. High-security windows and doors cost significantly more and take longer to manufacture and install compared to traditional fenestration products. Knowing this upfront saves a lot of headaches in the long run.

Holistic approach. In addition to being engineered and tested for security purposes, fenestration products also must meet architectural objectives for aesthetics, functionality and environmental stewardship. It is important to work with a manufacturer that has experience in creating unique product designs that accomplish mainstay architectural principles, while staying within the bounds of the products’ tested conditions and materials.

While it is difficult to alter the physical construction of tested windows and doors, for example, non-standard shapes and sizes are possible, along with premium trims and claddings. There are also many glazing options available that offer various levels of energy efficiency, clarity and privacy.

Integration Issues

Beyond these design considerations, managers also should consider the way that high-security fenestration products will be integrated into the building envelope because it is important that adjacent building materials are sufficient to support the product’s weight and designed threat loads. It would be a mistake to install these products in a pre-existing building constructed with traditional materials, such as wood or metal studs. Designers and managers should consider the way these products fit into the overall design of the building to avoid major structural issues or poor performance in an attack situation.

“It’s not uncommon to run across specifications that call for fenestration products that are either not available or not compatible with the building design,” says Greg Mount, architectural security sales engineer with Ross Technology. “Case in point, a project specification will call for forced-entry/ballistic-resistant windows in a curtain wall that utilizes traditional storefront style glazing. Ross works alongside architects to develop alternate solutions, which in this example, would involve designing a structural wall capable of supporting the window’s weight and threat loads.”

Partner with an expert. Consulting subject-matter experts early in the design process pays dividends for everyone involved in the project. Security professionals apply real-world learning from actual security events, are familiar with industry testing standards and understand the most common problems associated with security design. Steve Kemper, product engineer with Ross Technology, stresses the importance of partnering with proven security professionals.

“A good technical expert in the security world is able to cut through mounds of information to identify the best solutions,” he says. “And when the correct products are specified, it’s easier for manufacturers and contractors to bid and build projects correctly.”

Ross Technology — www.rosstechnology.com — manufactures a diverse line of physical security and public safety solutions that protect people, property and products in a range of applications, including antiterrorism/force protection, OSHA compliance and industrial storage. Based in Leola, Penn., the company supports construction and capital-improvement projects throughout the world.

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posted on 6/21/2017