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Published: Saturday, 2/14/2004

Toledo firm hopes heat-resistant glass catches fire

Highly fire-resistant glass has never made much of a dent in the American building market, says Bret Penrod, the general manager of a new Pilkington North America processing facility in Toledo.

He believes that s starting to change, beginning with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Using a 1,400-degree torch, production manager Doug Porter showed off the glass yesterday at a demonstration inside the firm s new Toledo plant.

Mayor Jack Ford experienced the fire-resistant properties of Pyrostop first-hand by placing his hand on one side of a pane of the glass while Mr. Porter aimed a stream of fire at the glass from the other side.

Although the fire side of the glass started to cloud, crack, and bubble, Mr. Ford s side of the glass remained cool enough to touch. The glass contains layers of insulation that block and distribute the heat, and is designed to withstand intense fire for up to two hours.

Pilkington North America took over the vacant steel processing warehouse at 946 Kane St. in the Five Points area in December. The plant employs 10 people who process shipments of the Pyrostop glass and cut and trim the panes to order. Among their customers is the Smithsonian Institution s new American Indian museum in Washington.

Mr. Ford said the city spent $10,000 to improve utility access to the facility.

Pilkington makes the glass in Germany, but workers at the Toledo plant hope to generate enough sales in the United States to justify beginning a production line here.

Mr. Penrod said the glass has been in use in Europe about 20 years, but has been slow to gain acceptance in the United States because of cost. He said U.S. builders use a lower level of fire resistance in conjunction with sprinkler systems for fire protection.

Fire-resistant glass would help contain a fire, as well as the smoke, in the event a sprinkler system is knocked out, such as in a terrorist attack or a power outage, he said.

Mr. Penrod said he is hoping Toledo Public Schools will use some of its glass in the $821 million school reconstruction project that is scheduled to get under way soon.

“We d love to have our products in the schools,” he said. “We ve had some conversation, but really no level of interest, unfortunately.”

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