Innovations in School Security Windows: Safer Windows, More Light

For decades schools have focused on “shatterproof” security windows. This made sense when the gravest threats to our schools were vandalism, extreme weather, or explosive devices.

But the threats have changed. While security windows and aftermarket security films are excellent solutions for some forced-entry applications—and can even carry a blast rating—they simply do not stop bullets. Most of the existing exterior glazings that do provide both ballistic and forced-entry protection were designed for government applications. These are simply beyond the reach of most American schools.  These exterior security windows are heavy. They are hard to manufacture, challenging to integrate into existing structures, and difficult to install. That all adds up to expensive.

As a result, as we’ve sought to increase school security—and stay within budget—districts and communities have often sharply reduced the window-to-wall ratio in their schools.

This isn’t a great solution. First and foremost, it results in schools that feel like fortresses or prisons—which “can foster hostile environments that may lead to even more disorder and dysfunction.” On top of that, you lose the benefits of natural lighting, in terms of health and wellness, while reducing security (by creating blindspots and avenues of attack that sharply limit building occupants’ opportunities to prevent or prepare for an attack).

Begin reading the Ultimate Guide to Non-Profit Security Grants

A New Bullet-Resistant Security Window Option for Schools

Clearly, there is demand for a good, affordable exterior glazing for schools that has both a forced-entry rating and can stop bullets. But the absence of such a product hasn’t stopped unscrupulous businesses from overselling existing school security glazing and security films—and often implying these are “bullet resistant” when that simply isn’t the case.

“It’s been very frustrating,” explains Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards. “To hear more and more people asking about ‘bullet-proof films’—because they just don’t exist.”

That’s why TSS has been working with a prominent U.S. glass manufacturer to outfit schools with a new all-glass bullet resistant glazing solution. This new generation of school security glazing will not only prevent forced-entry but also carries a tested and certified UL Level 1 bullet resistant rating.

security window bullet-resistance levels

In recent tests, a 36-inch by 60-inch sample of this bullet resistant glass stopped three shots from a 9mm pistol at five yards. Lab techs then struck that same security window 273 times from a variety of hammers and a baseball bat. All told, the glass withstood more than nine minutes of abuse before technicians were able to create a hole in the glass large enough to admit a single hand.

Given that every thirty seconds of delay saves a life in an active shooter event—and it took nine minutes to get a four-inch hole in the glass—this is an excellent performance.

Most importantly: This new generation of security window is priced to compete with lower-performance school security glazings—ones with no demonstrated bullet resistance.

New School Security Windows Bring Added Benefits

In true TSS fashion, this is a material that doesn’t just perform—it over-performs. Most conventional bullet resistant glazings are made of thermoplastics like acrylic or polycarbonate. Some common commercial cleaners will mar these materials, causing hazing or crazing. This new security window material is glass-based. It’s easier to maintain, and more scratch resistant. Additionally, the windows are just 1.125 inches thick, so they can be retrofitted into existing frames.

But this new glazing doesn’t just have security advantages. It’s a laminated glass, composed of multiple heat-hardened layers. This creates an opportunity to include interlayers of other materials, tuning and enhancing the window’s performance. In this case, the glass includes a patented self-tinting interlayer film.

“This is the only glass like this on the market, worldwide,” Jim notes. “It’s not just bullet resistant, not just forced-entry rated, but it’s also a dynamic glass.”

The First Bullet-Resistant, Blast-Resistant Dynamic Glass for Schools

“Dynamic glass” is self-tinting. “The system is entirely passive,” Jim explains. “No electricity, no sensors, no controls, nothing to fail. It responds directly to the light striking the window. If you have a corner room, during the first hour the windows on the east wall will tint, so students can still see the projector. But the north wall will stay crystal clear, so you get those benefits of natural light.”

Dynamic glass greatly reduces HVAC strain in any building. With these new bullet-resistant school security windows, schools get all the light without the heat. And they get both forced-entry and ballistic protection.

“We’re really excited by this,” Jim explains. “It’s a ‘best of both worlds’ product. Schools can keep these large spans. They get to keep good sightlines and natural light. But that room doesn’t get boiling hot for part of the day. And it’ll be easier to use technology in the classroom. Most importantly, this is an upgrade and investment that makes everyone’s life better every day. You don’t have to wait for an extremely terrible event to be glad you’ve got it.”

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