Federal task force to review wired glass use in Canada’s building code

A file photo of wired glass with a hole in it. Global News

A federal department responsible for the country’s building code has formed a task force to review upcoming changes to the use of wired glass, which is set to lose its safety designation at the end of the month.

Wired glass, which is widely used in schools, hospitals and office buildings throughout Canada, has been linked to hundreds of injuries – some serious – due to its low impact resistance.

READ MORE: Wired glass to lose safety designation in Canada

Andre Laroche, manager of regulatory solutions with Codes Canada – a department in the National Research Council that is responsible for the country’s building code – said the task force will review the new standards when they are published, which is expected by the end of February.

The Canadian General Standards Board – a federal organization that develops standards for government, industry and consumers – is set to remove wired glass from its national building standards, saying it isn’t safe.

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READ MORE: Wired glass injures as many as one child a day in Canadian schools, expert says

Laroche said the federal building code will take its cue from the new standard, but it might not make it into the code until 2020, its next scheduled publishing date.

He said the national building code is only used for new builds and extensive renovations, and the change wouldn’t be enforceable until the provincial building codes adopted them into legislation.

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“There is always a lag between the publication of the code and the enforceable measures of the code,” Laroche said.

He said, however, that provincial and territorial building codes don’t necessarily have to wait for the new federal code to implement changes.

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Ontario said it will consider whether changes to its building code are appropriate when the new standard is published, said Conrad Spezowka, a spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

READ MORE: Wired glass, blamed for severe injuries, likely to remain in Canadian buildings for decades

Wired glass was only intended to be used as a fire barrier when it entered the standard in 1990, Laroche said. During a fire, regular glass can break and explode due to the intense heat. The wires prevent glass from falling away upon breakage, thereby slowing the spread of a blaze.

“It was not intended to be used as a reinforced window to prevent someone to go through and break it,” Laroche said.

Yet the use of wired glass proliferated because there was nothing else that had a similar fire rating, according to University of Toronto engineering professor Doug Perovic.

READ MORE: Despite deadly 2001 incident, Edmonton schools still use wired glass

The problem, he said, occurs when wired glass is used in high-traffic areas.

“Wired glass is about half as strong as the same glass without wire – it’s terrible,” Perovic previously told The Canadian Press.

Statistics about injuries related to wired glass are difficult to come by, but the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, which provides insurance to nearly 80 school boards, reported over 200 wired-glass claims between 1987 and 2015.


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