While most of the headlines in California focused on the much needed rain, many awoke last Monday, Dec. 8, to a different story. Overnight, the DaVinci Apartment Complex in downtown Los Angeles was engulfed in flames – destroying the property and damaging nearby buildings.
What surprised many people who learned of the fire wasn’t that the building itself was ruined, but rather the damage caused to nearby government buildings due to radiant energy generated by the fire.
According to the next-day story in the LA Times, “The fire damaged the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Intense heat from the blaze cracked at least 160 windows—each 10 feet high by 4 feet wide.”
The article continued, “The blaze damaged other nearby buildings, including one that houses city agencies. ‘There are windows blown out all the way up the side of our building,’ said Building and Safety spokesman Luke Zamperini.”
|The Kensington in Boston features 1-hour fire-resistive curtain wall featuring Safti First’s SuperLite II-XL 60 in an insulating glass unit with Solarban 70XL from PPG. The fire-rated framing is Safti’s GPX CW Framing. The architect was The Architecture Team (TAT); the building envelope consultant was Curtain wall Design and Consulting (CDC); and Cheviot served as the glazing contractor.|
Fire-rated glass and framing are commonly used in interior applications (exit corridors, stairwells, etc.) to give occupants the opportunity to evacuate the building or seek safe harbor while awaiting rescue. However, with building construction happening closer together in major cities, we’ve seen an increase in fire rated glazing used in exterior applications because of property line requirements.
Where fire ratings must be maintained in order to prevent or slow the spread of fire between buildings, architects now use fire rated glass to meet code requirements without sacrificing views or natural light (click here for information on the IBC requirements for exterior fire rated applications).
Fire-rated glass and framing products that meet code reduce the auxiliary damage created from events similar to the fire at the DaVinci Apartments. Manufacturers have developed products that, when used as a complete fire-rated assembly, compartmentalize smoke, flames and radiant heat in accordance with ASTM E119/NFPA 251/UL263.
While no injuries were reported from the DaVinci fire, the incident reinforces the necessity of fire-rated glass and framing in such exterior applications. While more traditional interior fire-rated glass products provide safe egress for occupants during a fire, exterior fire-rated glazing assemblies provide valuable protection to occupants in the event of fire at adjacent buildings. And, the assemblies can protect while allowing architects to meet their aesthetic goals.
Tim Nass is vice president of national sales for Safti First, a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing products. The company works closely with architects and building envelope consultants to ensure owners and occupants get the highest quality products and safest design possible.