For projects and developments where security and fire safety are top concerns, wired glass is a relatively inexpensive option that satisfies both of these requirements. Wired glass is not particularly common in today’s homes, but it can be used sparingly to create an interesting aesthetic, and it can be a budget-friendly way to improve fire safety in industrial and commercial spaces.
Wired glass is essentially just float glass that has steel wire mesh embedded within the pane. The wired glass manufacturing process begins in the same way as the normal Pilkington process. The sheet of wire mesh is usually sandwiched between two layers of molten float glass as the glass cools on the conveyor line. Historically, wired glass was the only type of glass that was rated for fire safety, because the non-flammable wiring holds the glass in place in the event of heat-related cracking and shattering, and thus prevents fire and smoke from spreading quickly through a building. Strategically placed wired glass can ensure building occupants have time to evacuate safely in the event of a blaze and can reduce the risk of smoke inhalation for building occupants.
The wire mesh layer in wired glass functions similarly to the vinyl interlayer in laminated safety glass, but it stands up to heat far better. Most contemporary wired glass is tested to stand up to the heat levels of a building fire for between 20 and 90 minutes, depending on the glass thickness.
While wired glass is fire rated and can help to slow the spread of smoke and fire, it’s important to note that wired glass is not considered safety glass. Most wired glass does not meet all the current standards for impact resistance, and the wire mesh can potentially cause injuries if a person falls into or onto a pane of wired glass. For this reason, wired glass is best used in relatively small quantities, and in industrial or commercial buildings where the fire risk is high compared to the impact risk. In North America, wired glass is quite common in schools, where it tends to be used as a fire safety measure in hallway-dividing doors and small interior windows.