Glazing solves problems for health-care providers
Installing glass in hospitals requires special care. Starting from choosing appropriate glazing to glass specification and installation, there’s no room for error, because patient care is at stake. While every medical facility is different, keep the following in mind when bidding for a hospital project.
Mobility and comfort
Sick or injured patients often have limited mobility. They may be bed-ridden or dependent on life-saving equipment that cannot be quickly or safely moved. In case of fire or other emergency requiring an immediate evacuation or transfer, even a few extra minutes could make the difference between life and death. Longer fire resistance and ratings may be necessary for most or all applications.
Often, heat may be a consideration. For example, if patients became trapped in an area for a long period of time, the heat could quickly rise to an unbearable point even if the fire itself never breaks through. Some glass fire walls, such as Pilkington Pyrostop, remain cool to the touch on one side even when the fire rages on the other. With fire ratings up to two hours, glass fire walls can help buy time for patients who cannot be moved quickly or long distances.
With a vast array of imaging technology, hospitals require glazing that can protect patients and staff members from harmful exposure to radiation. This usually comes in the form of X-ray shielding lead glass or acrylic. The glass offers several advantages over acrylic, because it can be thinner for the same lead equivalency and is less prone to scratching or marring.
Most buildings have heating, ventilation and air-conditioning “night setback” modes that allow managers to reduce energy costs. However, since patients must be kept in stable, comfortable environments, hospitals must maintain consistent temperatures around the clock. The heating and cooling costs for large facilities can be staggering. Insulating glazing with low solar heat-gain coefficients can improve thermal performance while low-emissivity coatings can limit temperature gains with little loss of natural light. Glazing such as Alpen’s Heat Mirror glass can help to increase the comfort of patients with beds near the perimeter of buildings.
According to Health Facilities Management magazine, managers of health-care facilities spend an average 30 percent of their annual energy costs on lighting. Glazing can do a great deal to cut those costs by taking advantage of daylight. Translucent glass channels, such as Pilkington Profilit, allow light to enter the building while retaining privacy. Utilizing borrowed light inside a hospital also can reduce the need for artificial lighting.
Nearly everywhere in America, hospitals remain susceptible to natural disaster. On the East Coast, it’s hurricanes; on the plains, it’s tornadoes; and on the West Coast, it’s earthquakes.
In California, for example, code officials subject glazing to additional requirements that ensure adequate and safe performance during earthquakes. Additional requirements also have become common in many communities along the Eastern seaboard, particularly in Florida, where winds from severe storms or hurricanes can quickly turn common everyday objects into airborne missiles.
Many glazing materials have now been hurricane tested. Interlayers such as Solutia’s Saflex can be incorporated into laminated glass that satisfies the stringent Dade County, Fla., requirements.
Patients need peace and quiet from exterior and interior noises. The term “insulating glass” refers to heat transference, not sound attenuation. Therefore, applications requiring some level of sound reduction will call for glazing products with the appropriate characteristics and properties.
Sound Transmission Class ratings range from 18-to-50 for glass, with higher implying better noise reduction. An average dual-pane IG unit has a rating around 30 and does not significantly cut sound transmission. A window specifically designed for noise reduction, such as those by Soundproof Windows of Fremont, Calif., can achieve an STC rating of 45 or higher. The result is a 75-to- 95 percent reduction in noise pollution, greatly enhancing the peace and quiet in a recovery room.
Many forms of physical therapy require exercises and stretching that purposely challenge a patient’s balance and strength. Such exercises can lead to slips or falls, making impact safety a concern for nearby glazing. Impact safety also can be an issue for shower doors and bath enclosures where unstable patients may slip or fall. Some hospitals provide fitness centers as a staff benefit and impact safety may be a concern there for the same reasons.
These safety needs can be met in a variety of ways, with laminated or tempered products or with a surface applied film such as 3M’s Scotchshield Ultrafilm. Consider whether the location might also require a fire rating, and if a film will be prone to vandalism.
Whether it’s a matter of protecting patients, staff and visitors, health-care facilities may be susceptible to security threats. These days, an altercation from the street can easily spill over into any community hospital emergency room. Psychiatric hospitals have special security requirements to help protect patients and staff.
It’s common for independent businesses to locate within medical centers to service the large population. Each of these retail or service businesses have glazing needs, and most all include some level of security.
However, most security or bullet-resistant glazing has been glass-clad polycarbonate or other laminates containing various plastics. The plastics in the glazing may be highly flammable. With the fire-safety concerns, traditional security glass may not be ideally suited for hospitals. Pilkington Pyrostop and other glass fire walls now carry impact security and bullet-resistant ratings as well to provide multiple types of protection.
The business environment for health-care facilities has changed drastically over the last couple of decades. Major corporations are buying health-care facilities from nonprofit organizations that can no longer afford to provide all the services their communities need. In cities and towns across the United States, this trend creates an imbalance where health-care organizations that once cooperated on friendly terms must now compete for patients and the lucrative medical procedures that help fund their other services. This means hospitals must be competitive on every level, including architectural design. People are more trusting of businesses that appear to be successful; the same is true for hospitals. Given a choice of facilities for elective treatments, prospective patients will often gravitate to one that instills a sense of confidence for the vital services provided within.
Studies suggest that design considerations may even have an effect on patient recovery, with natural light and cheerful colors promoting healing. For this reason, most new hospitals or additions incorporate oversized windows and many include atriums or overhead glazing to capture an abundance of natural light.
Aesthetics also play a role in hospital design. For example, traditional wired glass gives way to wireless glazing materials such as the FireLite family of products from Technical Glass Products, Pyrodur or Pyrostop. By eliminating the wires, hospitals provide clear visibility without compromising fire safety.
Although architects who design hospitals often specialize in health care, they may not be fully familiar with all their glazing choices. They look to the glazing contractor to provide expertise as well as a competitive bid. The more value you can add in terms of knowledge and guidance toward the most appropriate glazing options, the stronger your chances of landing the job. What’s more, you’ll be enhancing the life safety of the people who will one day be patients in that facility. That in itself is a great motivation for staying current with the glazing trends in hospitals.
Oldcastle Glass: www.oldcastleglass.com
Schott North America: www.us.Schott.com
Vetrotech Saint-Gobain: www.vetrotech.com/us/eng/start.asp
CGI International Ltd.: www.cgii.co.uk/
General Glass International: www.generalglass.com/
Technical Glass Products Inc.: http://www.fireglass.com/
InterEdge Technologies: www.firesafe-glass.com/
O'Keeffe’s Inc.: www.okeeffes.com/