One of the architectural features that students love about the new 1,197-bed Quad on the University of Houston campus is visual connectivity.
Nearly every common area—and there are plenty of them across the seven-building, 385,000-square-foot residential community—is a showcase of light. By day, natural light floods interior spaces and connects students with one of five beautifully landscaped courtyards.
See and Be Seen
By night, students returning to their $124-million ‘home away from home’ behold study rooms and lounges alive with light—a visual connection to the vibrant social and scholastic world within. The Quad greeted its first students in late August under the University’s strict pandemic protocols.
“We try very hard not to have visually dead-end corridors where there’s no natural light,” explains Andy Albin, the project executive and a principal with EYP, the architect of the Quad. “For example, just above the central commons area on the second floor, there’s a student lounge, kitchen, and laundry room. Students can hang out and look up, down, or side-to-side to see or be seen. It’s all about visual connections.”
Quantity and Quality
To create that level of visual connectivity requires lots of glass. “It’s a really important material to us,” Albin says. “Not just the amount of glass, but the quality of glass. We push for as much glass as we can. Classrooms. Hallways. Lounges. Study rooms.”
Their design emphasis on transparency through glass has made EYP architects particularly critical specifiers. If you stake an aesthetic on a material, it had better be a good one.
Take 45-minute fire- and safety-rated glass: The usual default is ceramic glass, but that comes with an aesthetic price in the form of a telltale grayish-green tint. “That industrial tint interferes with the transparency we strive for,” Albin says.
Safety is also a concern. Ceramic glass is brittle, and breaks easily on impact. For it to meet Consumer Product Safety Commission glazing requirements for doors, sidelites, and other hazardous locations in the IBC, it would have to be either filmed or laminated—which adds to its already high cost.
How do you meet all fire and safety code requirements, including the hose stream test? Is there a way to address life-safety and aesthetics concerns and preserve a uniform look?
When the project was in the design stage, the answer was no. Then a funny thing happened while construction was underway.
The EYP design team received word there was a low-iron glass alternative that not only met the 45-minute fire rating, hose test, and CPSC safety glazing standard, but was also domestically produced and priced below ceramic glass alternatives.
As Clear as Non-Rated Glass
“This was as clear a glass as you can get with a Visible Light Transmittance rating of 90%. The frame comes in a very low profile, which adds even more to the aesthetic. Our lead architect told me, ‘This is the best product out there,’” Albin says.
The patent-pending glass is called SuperClear 45-HS-LI, and is manufactured by SAFTI FIRST, a vertically integrated, single source, U.S.-based manufacturer of advanced fire-rated glass and framing systems. Because of the product’s extensive third-party testing, including Underwriters Laboratories and Intertek listings, SuperClear 45-HS-LI received quick code approval and is featured throughout the Quad.
“SuperClear 45 is integral to the spirit of this building,” Albin says. Architects worldwide have an affordable, durable, super-clear design solution for any 45-minute application.
Learn more about specifying an ultra-clear 45-minute fire- and impact-rated glazing product for your next project, including brief videos of the safety glazing impact test here and the product’s capabilities here.