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Using Glass to Enhance Life Safety and Occupant Experience with TGP's Devin Bowman | cA Weekly - Full Transcript

November 10, 2021 - by commARCH
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Using Glass to Enhance Life Safety and Occupant Experience with TGP's Devin Bowman | cA Weekly - Full Transcript


The following is a transcript of an episode of the commARCH Weekly Podcast Series.The full episode is available in video format on the commARCH site or in audio format on all major podcast platforms. 

commARCH: Welcome to the commARCH Weekly Podcast Series, a space to share and explore the latest thinking in architecture, building science, materials, and design. Before we begin, please remember to subscribe to one or all of our channels - YouTube, all major podcast platforms, and of course, the commARCH website.

In this episode, commARCH has a dialogue with Devin Bowman, general manager at Technical Glass Products (TGP) to discuss the complex problems presented by health and safety concerns in education building design.

Areas covered include: developing comprehensive solutions to life safety requirements like fire ratings and resistance to forced entry, marrying the needs for safety and health to design questions regarding occupant experience like high-visibility glass, and addressing TGP's long-standing approach to providing offerings that meet a wide range of standards and use cases.


Devin Bowman is General Manager of TGP and AD Systems at Allegion. Bowman has been with TGP for nearly 20 years, through a variety of roles that've given him perspective into numerous aspects of both TGP's own business and of the industry at large. A graduate of the University of Washington, Bowman has also served as International Sales Manager and Vice President of Sales for TGP.


Thank you for joining us - let's hop into the podcast.


cA: So, it's nice to see you again.


Devin Bowman: Yeah, likewise!


cA: Thanks. So, since we last spoke... the subject of education - the facilities, safety - just keeps popping up with a lot of architects that I've been speaking with, and with some really good insights too.


So, if you're ready. I'm ready. Let's just dive right in.


DB: Let's do it. Let's do it.


cA: So when we talk about educational facilities, what are we thinking about addressing regarding to safety? Life safety, wellbeing, fire?


DB: You and I had previously talked about this - as students start going back to school, in a post-pandemic environment. this issue - which was really put on pause as people were going through homeschooling and remote educational practices - it's become a real subject again. And, just on Wednesday, we saw that there was an incident in Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas - just last Wednesday.


So it is something that is a very pressing topic for folks, from the administration side, from the perspective of parents, as well as students that go to school. And it's something that I think has really jumped to the top of the priority list when you think about having kids return to school, how are they going to be safe?


You know, in the 1960s, that's really, when you think about building construction, as it related to schools, the focus was on fire. The focus is on, "Hey, if there's a fire in the school, how are kids safe?" Focusing on life safety issues. Then you had fast forward to 1999 and you had Columbine, where an active shooter came with, you know - students of a school were put at risk and many died at the hands of one of their peers.


And so unfortunately, we've seen those incidents continue to happen and it seems that they're happening with more frequency. And so with building design, as it relates to schools and universities, architects, designers school boards, as well as the parents that send their children to those places, are very concerned that - fire is still a very real concern as well - but top of mind is, really, active shooters and people that are going to take violent actions against other students.


cA: What I think is really very interesting, especially for this audience, is that our audience can now lead in this area, in an area where I think all of us feel like I don't have the answer.


DB: Yup. Yup.


cA: But at least there are things that the design community can do and decisions that will help bring safety into this.


DB: Absolutely. And I I think an important thing to keep in mind, one of the things that I think in the Obama administration that was very helpful as it relates to this subject - you need to use data when you're making decisions. There's perception and then there's data.
And because right now there is no clear outline in building codes as it relates to school security, you take a look at what has occurred, typically, in an environment as school, like what happens? So as a designer, as somebody that's responsible for helping put together the requirements as it addresses these life safety issues... it's important to note that, back in 2014 in the Obama administration, they had the Active Shooter Report.


And what people found out is oftentimes, like in Columbine, you have students already within the school that intend to cause harm and they go from classroom to classroom. And they're trying to kill people - administrators, as well as students. And so without a building code giving clear direction on how a building is supposed to be designed - I think the onus is on the designer really to understand, if we're going to make the school a safe place and we've been asked to do so, how do we go about doing that? And so using data is really the right approach.


cA: So much of the conversation has been, how did the shooters get the weapons? What was their mental state? And I think for all of us, it's, how do we create for the occupants - the students, all the occupants, the teachers, everybody - a safer environment, because we can't control the other parts.


DB: Exactly right, exactly right. If you think about it, the way that a typical school is laid out, you've got a cafeteria, you have an entryway, you have classrooms, you have administrative suites in some areas it's very difficult to do so.


Unless you have guards within the school - armed guards - or you have the ability to screen all the students that come in and out or visitors that come in and out of a school, it's very difficult to regulate that. And that's a very good point. So knowing that a typical school, you have this flow of traffic and you have a routine that typically occurs where the same student comes in day in and day out, I don't think there's a perfect solution that addresses every scenario. But what you can plan for is, if an active shooter is within the school, how do you get students and faculty into a safe place?


And allow them - which is typically between three to five minutes before the first responders can arrive at a school - how do you give them that time and how do you gain that protection? And that's really where I think, as you look at the data that was put together in that active shooter report, it really is: number one, you look at making sure that the classrooms are secure. So students can go to their classrooms. The teachers gather them, get them in a place where they have a locked - the barrier to entry is locked. The windows are secure. So if somebody, whether it be through a handgun, a rifle, or a blunt instrument, trying to break through a window or a door, that they're safe until the first responders arrive.


Second to that, I think another important point is, it's disproportionate because the numbers don't match up when you think of students versus faculty. But when you look at the, when you look at the history of school shootings, 40% of the time, it's the faculty that are shot. It's the faculty. And they're the ones that are guiding and protecting and working with the first responders.


cA: Isn't it usually like in an act of protecting their students that they become - what we could do with design, they're right now, physically putting themselves in that position.


DB: Exactly right.

Sandy Hook, one of the first casualties was the principal of the school. And that was the person who was supposed to be there to help work with the first responders and the faculty on radio or other means of communication to bring the kids to safety. Again, there's no perfect answer, but I think if you look at the data and you understand what's - you want to keep the kids safe, you also need to make sure the faculty safe as well. And so it's a challenging and very complex situation we face, obviously.


cA: One of the - and we'll go into your company and what you're doing - because one of the things that comes up in a lot of the studies that we do - and we just completed one, to parent-teacher organizations, community boards, and buying groups.


And visibility is so important, like you said, for the first responders and everyone else, but being able to quickly identify what's going on in different environments - including storage areas and others - so important.


DB: You are absolutely right. So going back to looking at building design, you have life safety requirements, but you also have the need for that visibility. And it's just - even natural daylight looking outside the window right here, we know that's good for students. We know that natural daylight is important, but how do you incorporate design elements where we know life safety is not a part of the equation, but then you bring that into it. It makes it a much more complex design situation.


And so from our perspective, as a company, we want to be able to empower architects and designers to not be restricted with their design and not be restricted when you think about the different elements that are very important to the day-to-day exposure that students and faculty have and marry those life safety requirements.


So fire-rated requirements, as well as the - we call it forced entry, when you have active shooters -marrying them together and making sure that products are there to perform in the event that either of those two scenarios occur.


cA: I like the approach - which I know you're doing and others are talking about-


DB: Yep.


cA: Is, how do you make it so it doesn't look like this locked down environment too, like it's a prison for the kids.


DB: Very good point. Very good point. You think back to the days - remember when you were a kid or I was a kid, when you go into high school gymnasium, you saw the wired glass, which was fire-rated and it's very institutional. You feel like, you know, you're in a more of an institutional setting than you are in a place that's supposed to be fun. The place is supposed to be, you're there to learn and you're spending time with your friends.


So how do you go about that? Ourselves and other suppliers in our space really accomplish is providing materials and solutions that really meet that objective, where it is a seamless transition from... you may have a fire-rated window or a fire-rated coupled with forced entry window where it has the same appearance as - the adjacent down further down the hall may not require that. And so the aesthetic is the same.


So you have a seamless transition from here's something that meets these life safety requirements to something that does not, and as just a normal person walking down the hallway, a school corridor, I may not notice the difference. And so I think we're lucky today to have that kind of those resources available.


cA: So you can address the fire and this other - beyond imagination, like you don't even want to think about type issues - with the technology that you have.


DB: Yep.


cA: And do it in a way, because I know we covered - not you and I, but commARCH - that the continual flow of the glass, and how you're uniquely positioned.


DB: Exactly. But I think it's really important to note also, when it comes to life safety - and this is well-established in the world of fire-rated - again, going back to the 1960s and on when that became a big issue - the building code is very well established as it addresses the fire rated life safety requirements.


It's very plainly laid out. It's easy to understand that a certain type of building requires fire-rated materials in a given area based on occupancy and other factors: the category of people that are typically occupying that building and so on. Forced entry is not at that level at this time.


And so as a designer, the challenging thing is, how do I know if I am specifying a product that is going to meet requirements that give the parents, the faculty, and the first responders a peace of mind, in the unfortunate event something like this would occur where you have an active shooter present, and especially when there's an overlap.


So if you think about it, life safety issues, when we have an overlap with fire-rated and forced entry, you combine the two, just because you're concerned about forced entry or an active shooter doesn't mean that that fire in a corridor is going to go away. You have to have two products that are married together and perform either independently or, worst case scenario, together and how do you know they're going to be able to reform in that circumstance?


cA: That's interesting. It's probably very easy for people to go, okay, our priority now is this, and then they'll drop the focus that was there.


DB: Yes, exactly. And that's where, again today, where there isn't a clear definition of requirements in the building code. I think as you look to manufacturers or you look to people who consult on this subject, to be able to point to something - and typically the most reliable, and I think trusted resources would be able to say, I have tested this product. I have tested it and I've tested at an accredited laboratory. It's listed, you can go online, Mr. Architect, Mr. Designer, Mr. Consultant, go online, here is our listing. You can see that it has been tested. It's been tested both standards and there is the confidence there that it's going to perform in the event that either scenario occurs, independently or together.


I think the challenging thing is, typically when you think about forced entry, oftentimes you're thinking about materials that are used, that are highly flammable. So very much plastic is used - plastic-based materials - or, or other resins or other types of materials that are typically very flammable.


Well, if there's a fire, those combust very quickly, and tend to spread fire more quickly than standard glass would. And so how do you know when you marry those two together that they're going to perform well? You have to be able to point to a test and you have to be able to point to a fact that those have been tested together in unison.


cA: As you said, the fire rated glass from the sixties. How long did it take to evolve those building codes to the point where we can say, "...okay."


DB: Even going back a decade ago, a little over a decade ago, we still saw changes in the building code. So the glass product that I referenced before, although it performs very well in a fire, you think about day-to-day use - fires, they occur, but they don't occur all that often. Going back to the gymnasium scenario where you have kids playing basketball, there could be impact with glass. And so what would people understood is that, based on injuries that occurred, kids can get hurt with that wired glass and they understood that there was technologies available and glass products available that didn't have the risk associated with the use.


And so the building code changed starting in 2003 and then in 2006, where they eliminated the use of wired glass in impact areas. So you think from 1960, all the way up to 2006 evolution continued to occur as technology and product development occurred, building codes adapted and accepted these changes, and enforced those changes to make sure that life safety was - that the requirements of life safety met current technical technology and products available.


I believe this will occur- (Overlapping)


cA: Go ahead, I'm sorry.


DB: No, no, I was just - the same will occur with forced entry, I believe.


cA: Because of the fire-rated glass and that odyssey it went through, it's not that what we're talking about now is starting at the 1960s level, because we've already learned at this level. We can come in at a higher level.


DB: Exactly right. I don't think the level of attention back then is the same as what - let's think pre-pandemic. Can you think about the number of - there's been conferences, there's been trade shows, there's been countless seminars that I've been exposed to where you have a community of people that are actively involved in this discussion.


And trying to address what is the best approach to provide confidence that our schools, whether it be changing, retrofitting existing schools, or as you move forward with new school construction, how do we properly address these issues? And there's extreme focus on this, and I would agree with you. I think that the process is accelerated.


Especially going back to what occurred on Wednesday. Here we are just months into post-pandemic where kids are back in school, and something tragic like that happens. And so I think that you are going to see more rapid change than we did in the past.


cA: A logical question that someone would ask is, okay, why your company, why you, why are you more qualified?


DB: You know, that's a great question... I don't consider myself an expert. We would say that we have been actively participating in a lot of these discussions and we have a track record where life safety has been the focus of our company. It is the bedrock of our company. We partner with another company that has a history - a company called LTI - and there's folks over there that - Chris Kapiloff is a guy that we have worked closely with who developed products to specifically address the needs of school security.


At TGP, we believe, having been involved in this process very early on - we took a close look at this, knowing that there was a need where we had architects as well as members of various school districts reach out to us and asking for solutions, we're well advanced - informed - about this subject early on.


And so we have a track record of really approaching things, in my mind, the right way, making sure that we put the life and security and safety of occupants of a building first. Meanwhile, trying to balance also what the designers need and desire. And I think with the track record that we've had, in knowing that when an architect turns to us for a solution or our partner for a solution, that we're there to provide something where - here's a turnkey solution, where you are going to have a peace of mind, knowing that we have gone through and performed the proper tests.


I think - if you don't mind, just a little segue here. It's also, when you look at products that are used in these scenarios, you want to have a system approach. You want to have an approach where the entire assembly has been tested. It's not just the glass as a standalone item. It's not just the framing as a standalone item, the hardware that is used within the doors as a standalone item, because the system is only as strong as the weakest link.


And so as a supplier, it's, the onus is on us. If we are entrusted to provide a solution, if we are asked to provide a solution, when it relates to life safety, we need to give a hundred percent confidence to the designer, as well as the building owner, as well as the people that spend time in that space, that the solution is going to work in the event a tragedy occurs.


cA: Yeah. There's so much to cover on it. Actions - well, wait, before we go to what actions - when commARCH does its research, we're always trying to get closer to how we can be of value. What we're hearing from designers is they would love to have a relationship with a company that's a solution predesigned.


DB: Yes.


cA: Helping with the concepts.


DB: Yes.


cA: So this product and this focus, and also your company's reputation, is a very logical partner, I would think. That you have resources that start with that.


DB: Absolutely. And again, we participate - we're very active as it relates to development of building codes. We are very active - again, talking about the conferences, the trade shows, the committees that really focus on this subject, whether it be the subject of fire-rated products, forced entry or active shooter scenarios, or the combination of the two. We are very active with that.


And again, going back to the original topic of using data, that's really how we form our opinions. That's how we form our strategies to address the needs. It really comes down to what occurs in those scenarios, what typically occurs? How do you go about understanding what a real scenario where there's an active shooter or a real scenario where there's a fire or the unlikelihood - but possibility - that both occur at the same time?


Let's say an active shooter comes in where they have a flammable instrument that they use. That's very possible too, where both scenarios occur. So how do we go about addressing that? And with our track record of thirty-plus years of testing our products in these different types of scenarios and more recently in the last eight years where we've been testing the combination of both forced entry as well as fire-rated.


I think we were really one of the first organizations in our space that went down that path, quite frankly. It was actually right around the Sandy Hook incident, where we started taking a very close look at this, and trying to understand how do we meet the needs in these terrible scenarios and working with experts in the field.


We've, having participated in these different events where you have folks that have been the first responders, understanding the amount of time it takes to get from a police station on average to a school facility, to be able to get in and try to provide relief and get the threat removed from that space, as one example.


So from our perspective, we try to use that data and we try to influence - not influence, but we try to participate, I guess, in that process and making sure that the solutions that are required really meet the high standard a real life scenario.


Dean, a few years back - go back a decade ago - the only solution that's available really as people think about forced entry, really, it was ballistic-rated products.


Which is not within what we've seen over the last decade of the incidents that occurred. Yeah, guns are involved, but sometimes there's blunt instruments as well. The test methodology has not been defined per building code what's required, but there are standards out there that closely mimic or closely replicate what occurs in those scenarios.


As our organization, one of the things that we identified, what's the closest thing that we can test to today that based on the data available, based on what really actually occurs in those types of scenarios, what can we provide to a designer or to a school board to understand that our products come as close as what we believe to be the real-life scenario?


As an example, we tested our products to ASTM E2395 which is a combination of ballistic as well as trying to use blunt instruments to enter from one space to another. So from that perspective, we want to instill confidence with designers, making sure that when they contact us that we've done our research, we're not just throwing - we're not spitballing at this topic. We've done some research, we feel confident that solutions without clear direction in building codes today, that the solution that they provide - it's turnkey, the entire assembly will work in the event that either of those tragedies occur.


cA: I keep bringing up that we do the surveys, but we're obsessed with hearing what people have to say. And we did one on fire-rated glass, could be even a year ago. And we had, unaided, "Who would you turn to for information and other things."


And that's one of the reasons why we're talking. TGP was vastly recognized as a leader. Part of it is probably the marketing and your ad agency, them pushing the brand and making sure that it's always front of mind, but still, reputation is fragile and it can only be maintained and built and...


DB: Absolutely right. If you're going to put your name, and the reputation of your company behind something, you have to have confidence that it will perform as expected. There's no question. And again, we're talking life safety here. We're not - in the world of building products, we'd like to believe that aesthetically, we provide something that meets the aesthetic desires of designers and building owners.


But at the same time when you're talking life safety, that's a critical piece. And we have - we've established a track record over the many years that we've been doing business of making sure that number one: you don't cut corners. Number two: understanding that when you deliver a product, but especially as it relates to life safety, that is going to perform as intended. And it's going to perform to the highest levels of standards.


When the building code clearly outlines and dictates what's required, we have to meet the letter of law every step of the way. And in this scenario, when it doesn't exist in the building code, guess what - we're going to do exactly as what we foresee occurring in the future, where there will be standards. And we've picked a standard that we believe to be the closest to that real life scenario.


And again, a desire when they come to us, we want to make sure that we're not letting them down, that they have a solution that's going to perform as expected.


cA: Great. So for the audience, what's the best way to engage with your organization?


DB: One of the things that we pride ourselves in is having a staff of people that are able to consult, that are able to speak to these specific topics in detail and understand, if a designer or an architect or a building owner comes to us and says, this is what we envision our building to look like, here's the challenges that we see. We are able to - understanding what we have available with our resources and our products - to be able to say here are some solutions that you may be able to consider.


We oftentimes participate with local municipalities and authorities having jurisdiction - AHJs. Consultants or folks that go in and ensure that buildings are being built according to specifications, and meet - the products that are specified are actually delivered. So we actively participate in conversations with them and educational opportunities with them as well.


So my recommendation is if you have any questions relating to this subject - forced entry, fire-rated - our staff, please contact us because we in a position to be able to provide guidance, whether it be through our company and our products, and if not, there's other avenues as well that we're aware of that we can hopefully point people in the right direction.


cA: Great. Thank you so much for doing this. Such an important topic.


DB: Yeah. Thanks Dean, for the opportunity. Again, it's an unfortunate topic. It's an unfortunate topic, but it's the reality, unfortunately, in which we live today. Our job is to stay on top of it and to understand it, and really try to get ahead of it, and provide solutions to the design community that don't restrict the design ideas that are out there, provide solutions in these complicated times.


cA: In closing - if I'm doing a presentation for my architectural firm to a school system, and I'm bringing this as a component. We've investigated it, these are the types of things we can do. You can't play down how impactful that will be in your presentation.


DB: Yes. We launched a product just in the last week and it's amazing the immediate feedback we received from - I can't get into specifics - but we've had some very well-known universities reach out to us immediately to discuss this topic. Because they're going to be addressing this in the upcoming year with their budgets, whether it be retrofit or new construction.


We've had several school districts reach out to us. It's a topic that's on the top of everybody's mind, and they want us in there as soon as possible to be able to provide guidance - for the upcoming, this is immediate - so we're there to provide help when needed.


cA: Thank you for everything. This is awesome.


DB: Thanks for the time, I appreciate the opportunity.


cA: It was so good, yeah! Thank you. All right. Take care.


cA: The commARCH team thanks you as always for joining us for this week's podcast. Please remember to subscribe to the commARCH YouTube channel, follow us on your favorite podcast platform, and take advantage of the commARCH website, where you can access all of these platforms and associated podcast transcripts. Until next time. 

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