Wrightstyle Looks At Fire Risk In High Rise Buildings

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Wrightstyle is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of advanced steel and aluminium glazing systems, supplying fire and blast resistant systems worldwide. Tim Kempster, Wrighstyle’s MD takes a look at fire safety in the supertall buildings now being built.  

The skyscraper is just about to get a whole lot bigger, with a whole lot more of them around. As of last year there were 57 habitable buildings in the UK of at least 100 metres tall. 45 are in London, four in Manchester, and a small scattering in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Swansea and Brighton.


The Shard in London is currently the tallest building in both the UK and Europe, topping out at 310 metres with 87 storeys. It has 11,000 panes of glass and a total surface area of 56,000 square metres. Its early designs were influenced by a report from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) into the collapse of the Twin Towers in September 2001, which were just over 400 metres tall, which found that “the towers withstood the impacts and would have remained standing were it not for the dislodged insulation (fireproofing) and the subsequent multi-floor fires.”


While the Shard is the tallest building in Europe, it will be dwarfed by the tallest of them all, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – the first habitable building to pass the one kilometre mark. The £780 million Kingdom Tower, on which work has just begun, will stand at just over 1,000 metres, will take five years to construct, have 200 storeys, and require some 500,000 cubic metres of concrete and 80,000 tons of steel. It will be three times higher than the Shard and 173 metres taller than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building – with 160 storeys. The challenges will be immense, not least how to pump wet cement half a mile upwards.


To erect the Burj Khalifa, cement pumping took place at night to reduce heat. But it’s China that is setting the pace, with a number of ultra high-rise developments, including the Shanghai Tower which is due for completion shortly, at 632 metres, and has become China’s tallest building. Another is Sky City in Changsha which will be 838 metres tall, again higher than the Burj Khalifa and the developers want to complete construction in 10 months – another record. The new 541 metre One World Trade Center, the building that replaced the Twin Towers, is the only US skyscraper in the Top 10 tallest buildings in the world – but not for long as other countries build further into the sky. But it’s not just China and the Middle East that are leading the upward march.



According to New London Architecture (NLA), some 236 buildings in the capital of more than 20 storeys are planned or under construction – mostly for residential use, although others will be hotels, offices, mixed use, and an educational institute. Nearly half of those towers have planning permission and 19% are already being built. Thirty three of them will have between 40 and 49 storeys and 22 will have more than 50.


In London, with high land prices, the logic of building upwards is inescapable, and creating high-rise residential blocks will help to alleviate the city’s chronic housing shortage – if design lessons from the past can be learned. Glasgow’s Red Road flats are a case in point. Built in the early 1960s, and Europe’s highest residential blocks when they were built, they have now all been scheduled for demolition, although a plan to demolish them “live” as part of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony was scrapped.


The steel-framed buildings were fire-proofed with asbestos, which blighted the flats for years. But the biggest lesson came over one hundred years ago from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York, when a catastrophic fire killed 146 garment workers in 1911, and led to new legislation on fire safety in tall buildings. Leaving aside 9/11, the worst recorded tall building fire was in Sao Paulo, Brazil in a 1974 blaze that killed 179. At Wrightstyle, we have worked on a number of high-rise developments in the UK and internationally, building in fire safety and high wind-loading attributes – particularly in the Far East, a typhoon zone.


We have also publicly raised concerns about how fire regulations were being applied across parts of the Middle East, and changed our certification processes , so that a fire certification on one of our glazing systems could not be unilaterally applied on another project. But we remain concerned that in the headlong rush to build faster and higher, issues of fire safety in some countries may not be adequately addressed or, just as bad, components in that building may not have proper fire-safety characteristics. For example, in Grozny, Russia last year, fire destroyed the tallest skyscraper in the North Caucus region, a 145-metre tall structure with 40 storeys. Within two hours, fire had engulfed three sides of the building, with fire spreading so quickly because, it was reported, combustible building materials were used in its construction. (An apartment is a neighbouring 27-storey residential block belongs to the French actor Gerard Depardieu).


Our primary business at Wrightstyle is the supply of integrated glass and framing systems, whether in steel or aluminium, with each system tested as one unit. In a fire situation, if one of those components fails, they both fail – with potentially catastrophic consequences. There is a good summary of firefighting response to fire in high-rise buildings by the London Fire Brigade, a presentation the Service made to the Tall Buildings Fire Safety Network. Another report published last year on fire safety design in tall buildings was presented to a major Asia-Oceanic symposium. It concludes that “only once we understand fires in modern compartments can we truly assess the critical components of the fire safety strategy and begin to provide relevant, refined, innovative fire safety that truly reflects the nature of tall buildings.”


An informative UK website also brings together many aspects of high-rise fire safety. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat also addresses the issue. There is also a very useful report on fire safety in tall buildings from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. In the new generation of super-buildings, fire safety takes on a whole new dimension, because – beyond sprinkler systems – how do you tackle a fire a kilometre up in the sky? The answer is: with great difficulty, and there have been several notable cases where a sprinkler system has made things worse, with cold water coming into contact with non-fire rated glass and causing the glass to break and allowing more oxygen to reach the seat of the fire. The same is true of tempered glass, with a limited fire-rating.


The most effective way of dealing with fire at high altitude is by fire compartmentation: keeping the fire contained in one protected area and preventing it from spreading. A contained fire can be dealt with; an uncontrolled fire can’t. A rule of thumb for fire safety in supertall buildings is that any fire should be able to burn itself out, without external intervention, and without building collapse. That allows for a limited evacuation of people on the affected floor and on floors immediately above and below the fire.


Everyone else should be “defended in place” – a realistic strategy when you might have elderly or disabled occupants stranded 200 storeys up. Wrightstyle’s high-performance systems not only have up to 120 minutes of insulation and integrity, they have been tested to the USA’s more stringent fire test regime – including the hose stream test, where the glass and framing assembly is subjected to a stream of cold water, to simulate a sprinkler system or subsequent fire fighter response.


Research demonstrates that a combination of a sprinkler system and non-fire rated glass is not a good safety solution. An “active” sprinkler system needs good maintenance and activation sequences to work properly, whereas “passive” fire-rated glazing systems are guaranteed to work – if the right systems have been specified. (Sprinkler systems can also be compromised by low water pressure, a particular consideration in very high buildings, and PVC water supply pipes can be damaged by fire and rendered inoperable). Over the years, we’ve seen the good, bad and the ugly of fire safety design, and hope that the new cities in the sky pay heed to the absolute need for a whole new level of fire safety and, if the worst does happen, have fire containment strategies to ensure everyone’s safety.

Xiamen To Strengthen Management Of Skyscraper Glass Curtain Walls

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The city’s construction and administration bureau announced on Monday that it will urge skyscraper builders and property owners to conduct safety checks and repairs on glass curtain walls which have been in use for more than ten years to prevent accidents.

The bureau said they have built a system to record all the buildings with exterior walls made of glass in the city and will urge skyscraper builders and property owners to conduct safety checks and repairs of glass curtain walls which have been in use for more than ten years. The authority will notify the owners and publish the buildings in the media.

According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 1,000 buildings with glass curtain walls in the city, of which 259 have been in use for more than 10 years.

Experts have said that glass curtain walls which have been in use for more than ten years could have problems like cracks, erosion and leaks, and could easily fall from the buildings as the structural adhesive used to fix them in place ages.

Even a small piece of glass falling from high above can be as powerful as a bullet, experts warn, adding that glass curtain walls also cause light pollution and lead to excessive energy consumption because of the ease with which heat can dissipate through the glass.

Meanwhile, the city will also introduce new rules to standardize and restrict the use of glass curtain walls in new buildings.

Xiaomi Mi 3 Confirmed To Sport Scratch-Resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3

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Xiaomi's first smartphone, the Mi 3, is ringing cash bells for the company in India. Ahead of the Mi 3's launch via Flipkart on Tuesday, the company received 100,000 registrations for the smartphone. On Tuesday, Xiaomi claimed the first batch of Mi 3 smartphones in India was sold out within 40 minutes of its availability.

(Also see: Xiaomi Mi 3: First Impressions | Pictures)


However, one of the biggest qualms over the Mi 3 smartphone's specifications was whether the handset available in India came with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Notably, the company's official site and Flipkart's Mi 3 listing did not specify the feature, creating uncertainties for consumers.


Now the company, also referred to as 'China's Apple', has clarified on Twitter that the Mi 3 sold in India comes with scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The Mi India's official Twitter handle said, "Did you know? All Mi 3 phones sold in India come with scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3!"


Xiaomi's official online partner, Flipkart, has started taking registrations for interested Mi 3 consumers for the next July 29 sale on Tuesday. The registration for the sale would end on July 28. Notably, the Mi 3, priced at Rs. 13,999, will only be available to registered consumers on the sale day.


Further, Xiaomi on Tuesday confirmed via a Facebook post, "For those who didn't get to purchase Mi 3 today, we know you must be disappointed. We want to make it up to you. For the next sale only, you'll be automatically registered in the next sale."


The Xiaomi Mi 3 runs a highly tweaked version of Android 4.4 KitKat, called MIUI version 5. It comes with a 5-inch full-HD LCD display (1080x1920 pixels) offering a pixel density of 441ppi; a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (MSM8274AB) processor; 2GB of RAM; Adreno 330 GPU; 16GB of inbuilt storage; 13-megapixel rear camera; 2-megapixel camera, and 3050mAh battery.


Xiaomi, launched its latest flagship smartphone, which as expected is called the Mi 4, at the company's "The Journey of a Piece of Steel" launch event. It also unveiled the Mi Band budget fitness tracker priced at just $13 (roughly Rs. 790).

Your Next Smartphone Might Use Sapphire Glass Instead Of Gorilla Glass

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Sapphire, the hardest natural substance after diamond, might soon be used to make smartphone screens. Sheets of sapphire glass are already used by the military to create transparent armor, but if a bunch of sapphire-synthesizing startups have their way, sapphire glass will soon be cheap enough for use in a wide range of consumer products, such as smartphones, tablets, and other ruggedized devices.

Sapphire is a transparent, crystalline form of aluminium oxide (alumina) that is extraordinarily hard, scratch-resistant, a melting point of 2,030C, and almost completely impermeable and impervious to caustic chemicals. In short, sapphire is a slightly weaker but far cheaper and more abundant version of diamond. In terms of real-world use, sapphire is about 10 times more scratch resistant than normal window glass, and much stronger than any other materials used in optics applications. It is this ruggedness that has led sapphire glass to be used in applications where normal glass just doesn’t cut it, such as bullet-proof glass, watches, and the front window on barcode scanners. 

Most importantly, though, synthetic sapphire is relatively easy to make, though the exact processes used are usually proprietary. In general, it simply involves the melting of large amounts of aluminium oxide in a special furnace, and then letting it slowly cool to create a single crystal of flawless sapphire. Straight-up aluminium oxide creates a transparent crystal of sapphire, but if you want to create a specific gemstone, trace minerals are added — titanium and iron create the stereotypical blue sapphire, while chromium turns it into a ruby. Then, when you have a big crystal (pictured above), a diamond saw is used to slice it into sheets of glass.



At around three times the strength and scratch resistance of Corning’s Gorilla Glass, sapphire glass would make an almost perfect smartphone screen. There’s one caveat: according to a market analyst, a sheet of Gorilla Glass costs around $3, while the same piece of sapphire glass would cost $30. Thanks to increasing competition, though, the cost of sapphire glass is dropping. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a high-end smartphone (such as the iPhone) use a sapphire screen in the next few years. It’s worth noting that the iPhone 5 already uses sapphire glass to protect the rear camera lens, so Apple is certainly aware of sapphire’s potential.

Another option is to create very thin sheets of sapphire, which are then laminated onto a cheaper material. According to Technology Review, GT Advanced Technologies is going down this route. By acquiring Twin Creeks’ ion cannon technology, which creates very thin sheets of silicon from a large crystal of silicon for use in solar cells, GT hopes to produce sheets of sapphire that are thinner than a human hair. In the video above, you can see an iPhone that’s been retrofitted with a sheet of GT’s sapphire glass — its performance really is quite impressive.

Other companies in the US, Russia, and South Korea are also working on reducing the cost of sapphire glass, all with their own proprietary methods. Reaching viability won’t be easy, though: Corning isn’t going to simply sit still. Either way, with our growing reliance on mobile devices, it’s comforting to know that there are developments in the pipeline that will soon make cracked screens a thing of the past.

Zak Glass Technology

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Zak Glass Technology

  • Name:
  • Zak Glass Technology
  • Time:
  • 2015/12/10 to 2015/12/13
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  • International Exhibitions
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  • MMRDA Exhibition Centre, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai, India.
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    Zak Glass Technology is the most important event for the glass industry in India and South-Asia. 

    Zak Glass Technology is India's and South-Asia's leading fair for glass and glazing technologies. As the most important communication platform for the glass industry, Zak Glass Technology provides you with everything that a special fair has to offer. It has established itself as an ideal place to find new, innovative and exciting products related to the glass industry.

    Zak Glass Technology has presented glass products, machinery, components and systems from its beginning in the year 2003 on. The show has grown continuously during the last few years and - with 220 exhibitors and represented companies - has become the largest and leading show of its kind in India and South-Asia. The growth of the show has coincided with the growth of the glass industry in India. It is a not-to-be-missed opportunity if you want to be seen.

    The show is held alternatively in Mumbai and New Delhi every year to maximize each regions potential.

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