The Centre for Settlement Studies (CSS) of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has made a breakthrough in developing the first ever burglar- proof escape window for the construction industry. The new metal window protects against burglary and provides a safe escape in times of emergency. This burglar-proof design is made from iron rods fitted with a spring-equipped bar which locks up the system when pulled downwards.
Dr. Divine Ahadzie, Head of the Centre for Settlement Studies, announced this in an exclusive interview with the University Relations Office (URO) as part of efforts to publicise this huge accomplishment.
Basically, windows have the primary function of allowing ventilation and light into a room. For tropical countries like Ghana, cross ventilation or the circulation of air in a room is necessary because of climatic conditions and that is the reason why louvre blades are recommended in the architecture of tropical countries.
In addition to this, security is also an important feature. Subsequently, the earlier version of the window built in the 1950s/60s had protection in the form of wire mesh. In the 1970s, iron bars which totally barricaded the window and had no escape route became the norm. This culture of burglar-proof louvre window construction has been practiced in Ghana since then. Currently sliding windows has become popular in the urban centres. However, this is not suitable for our climate because the glass traps heat from sunlight. Moreover 50% of ventilation is lost, because in the local design, only half of the glazing can be opened at a time. Thus, the burglar proof louvre window remains the appropriate window type for a tropical country like Ghana. However, this lack of safe exit in the case of emergencies such as fire needed to be addressed.
Interestingly, the Ghana Building Regulations (1996) LI 1630 (Clause 90) provides that apart from openings created for doorways, every building should have at least one window opening for escape in case of emergency. “We have all barricaded ourselves in our buildings and we are all flouting the law in the way we build with burglar-proof windows”, Dr. Ahadzie lamented.
According to Dr Ahadzie, the project started in 2009 to solve cases of the burglar-proof trapping people during fire outbreaks. The first attempt had unique features of a locking device with a padlock. The initial design was equipped with two padlocks within the perimeter of the window frame. Upon reflection, it was realised that in emergency cases a key may not be found. The new feature is a bar to eliminate padlock use and to make it easy to open in emergency situations. The improved version has the holding bar hidden beyond the reach of potential burglars and the locking device at the base of the bar does not necessarily have to be padlocks.
The Centre is therefore calling on government and stakeholders in the housing industry and allied institutions to promote and further improve it.
The project was funded with internally generated funds from the College of Art and Built Environment. The Centre is prepared to guide artisans and to provide in-service training. This is not the first time the Centre for Settlements Studies has come up with an initiative to improve housing. Tech Louvre blades – the wooden louvre blades – were introduced in the 1970’s.