Viewpoint: Devin Bowman
In an interview with Glass Magazine contributor Max Perilstein, Devin Bowman, national sales manager for Technical Glass Products, discusses the latest developments in fire-rated glass products and applications, and the related code improvements he believes are necessary.
Max Perilstein: First off, tell me about you. Where did you go to college and how did you get in our industry?
Devin Bowman: I attended college at the University of Washington and received a B.A. in Communications. After college, I started selling software before moving to Technical Glass Products. Selling glass is completely different than selling software, but I've never looked back. The glass industry is different. It's about cultivating relationships—not just one-time sales. That has always appealed to me.
MP: Let's talk 'fire-rated' for a moment. First, how do you tell the "old school" player that wired glass is no longer the product to use?
DB: Good question. The first thing we address is impact safety. Traditional wired, fire-rated glass is no longer allowed in hazardous areas because it is susceptible to breakage and forming snags that can injure building occupants. If fire-rated glass is being specified in such locations, we provide education on alternatives like laminated fire-rated ceramic glass or fire-resistant-rated glazing. In addition to being wireless, these glazing options offer impact-safety protection and are available with fire ratings up to three hours.
Impact safety aside, wireless, fire-rated glass has numerous design advantages. It's less institutional in appearance, improves visibility and can help transmit natural light. In many instances, wireless fire-rated glass' ability to help advance fire-rated, aesthetic and daylighting goals outweighs upfront costs.
Where cost remains a concern, we encourage a long-term perspective. It's important to consider the life of the product after it's installed. Specifying the lowest cost option upfront can lead to accidents or repairs down the road that might end up costing more—particularly for fire-rated glass in hazardous or busy locations.
MP: What are the biggest changes to the product and its usage in the last five years?
DB: One of the biggest changes in fire-rated glazing is the way products are used. Today's fire-rated glass systems do a lot more than satisfy codes and maintain visibility—they allow architects to push the design envelope. Whether it's installing clearer, fire-rated glass that better resembles ordinary window glass, or expansive, glass firewalls and fire-rated glass floor systems that transfer light from adjacent spaces, fire-rated glass systems offer more than just fire protection.
MP: Fun question. President Obama names you "Glass Czar." What are the first rules you put in place?
DB: One of the first rules I'd implement would be a timeline for code adoption. The IBC and NFPA have fire and life safety standards that are critical to the well being of building occupants. But with local jurisdictions adopting different codes, it's difficult to ensure best building practices consistently across the country. A reasonable time period for code adoption would help the progression of the glazing industry—whether it's fire and life safety codes or energy efficiency.
On the fire-rated side, I'd mandate the use of both sprinklers and fire-resistant building materials in egress areas. Statistics continue to report that one in 10 sprinklers fails due to human error. Since product development can't account for human failure, it's important to ensure codes aren't inadvertently compromising fire and life safety plans. Cost is a concern, but when it comes to people's safety, why take the risk?
MP: Fast-forward 10 years from now. Where do you see Devin Bowman and TGP?
DB: In 10 years, I imagine TGP's distribution network would be expanded. We currently have distributors throughout the U.S. and Canada, but enhancing this chain would allow for quicker material sourcing on a local level. It would also allow glaziers to provide shorter lead times on projects. From a product standpoint, I envision even larger, more energy-efficient glazed lites—both on the fire-rated and architectural glazing sides. Our frames will continue to become more slender—particularly on the fire-rated side, and we'll offer more specialized system solutions.