Written By: Brad Campbell | February 18, 2022
From exterior storefront windows and retailer display cases to interior architectural glass and glass partitions, there are many different types of glass barriers to consider when choosing the appropriate type of glazing for your building.
Every glazing surface serves a different purpose and faces different potential security threats, so it’s important to understand what types of glazing solutions are best for which barriers, especially when safety and security are concerns (which is almost always).
Architectural glass can be any type of glass intended primarily to serve some kind of aesthetic purpose in architecture, often in interior architecture. This type of glass may also serve a practical function, such as in the case of glass railings on staircases or elevated walkways.
Architectural glass barriers, such as glass railings, are a safety concern because there is always a chance that someone falls into them or that a heavy object impacts them and breaks them, shattering the glass onto anyone nearby. Because of this, human safety is the primary concern when it comes to architectural glass.
As such, tempered safety glass is a good choice for these types of barriers. Tempered glass can be up to five times stronger than standard annealed glass, so it’s less likely to break because of accidents, but that’s not the main reason why it’s the best glazing for these purposes.
Tempered glass is treated in such a way that when it breaks apart it shatters into thousands of small, relatively harmless rectangular pieces of glass, instead of into sharp, jagged shards. This means that the risk of human injury is much lower in the event of accidental breakage.
Other examples of glazing surfaces where tempered glass is recommended:
Commercial retail windows serve important purposes. Primarily, they allow retailers to put merchandise on display for people to window shop, potentially attracting customers who would not have otherwise come into the store.
Secondly, storefront windows let natural light in and permit views of the outdoors, creating a much more pleasant shopping experience for customers inside a store.
However, storefront glass is also incredibly vulnerable in terms of retail security, which is why standard annealed or tempered glass is not the ideal choice of glazing for retailers, especially for luxury and high-end specialty stores.
Burglars, smash-and-grab-thieves, and looters can easily smash through a standard display window, gaining access to whatever merchandise is on the other side and potentially everything else in the store, too.
In order to mitigate these risks, specialty retailers should reinforce their storefront glass with some type of forced entry-resistant security glazing.
For the optimal level of retail forced entry protection, we highly recommend containment-grade (non-ballistic) polycarbonate glazing shields.
Polycarbonate offers all the benefits of traditional storefront windows, including crystal-clear visibility and natural light, but provides virtually unbreakable glass protection.
You can retrofit polycarbonate glazing shields into or onto your existing storefront window framing systems, so there’s no need to replace the existing glass — but there is an added layer of protection in front of it to prevent forced entry and theft.
How polycarbonate retail security glazing benefits luxury retailers:
On the inside of specialty retail stores, glass display cases serve similar purposes to storefront windows. They allow customers to clearly view potential purchases while protecting the merchandise to some degree from shoplifting, dirt, and damage.
However, display cases made out of annealed glass or tempered glass are extremely vulnerable to smash-and-grab theft, as we’ve seen in recent headline-making stories about mass smash-and-grab burglaries in major US cities, such as LA.
In order to mitigate the risks of burglary and smash-and-grab theft, we recommend using the same type of glazing for display cases as for storefront windows: containment-grade polycarbonate security glazing.
Transaction windows are another of the most common types of glass barriers found in buildings. They are frequently used where cash transactions take place or in reception areas, both for security and sanitary reasons (especially with the COVID-19 pandemic the past couple of years).
For the most biologically and physically secure transaction windows, you’ll want to use polycarbonate glazing shields with some type of pass-through window built into them.
A pass-through window can be as simple as a metal tray underneath the glazing shield that allows for cash and/or important documents to be passed back and forth.
Installing a containment-grade glass transaction window with a pass-through window allows transactions to occur without the people on either side being in physical contact with one another.
The individuals can still clearly see each other and hand things through the barrier to facilitate the transaction, but the glazing prevents the spread of airborne germs and mitigates the risks of robbery and other security threats.
There are many different types of glass barriers found inside and on the exteriors of different commercial buildings, each of which serves its own unique purposes. Along with these different functions come different associated safety and security risks.
Because of this, it’s important to understand how to improve the safety and security of glass barriers with different types of glazing.
Where human safety is the only concern, tempered safety glass may be a suitable alternative to standard annealed glass.
However, when security is the biggest issue, any type of glass should be reinforced with containment-grade polycarbonate glazing shields to prevent it from breaking under impact.
Riot Glass LLC provides a full range of security glazing solutions and installation services. Contact our team today for a free consultation about improving your commercial glass barrier security.
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