Story at a glance:
- Ken Hallam from Binswanger Glass explains some of the most exciting developments in the glass industry to improve safety and performance.
- From resisting hurricane-strength winds to blocking gunfire, glass has a major role to play in improving building safety.
- Techniques such as tempered glass can strengthen the material, increasing its resistance against extreme weather, accidents, and more.
In the glass industry so many safety features are built in. You don’t see them, but they’re there. One great example of this occurs in spandrel glass, or the glass on the outside of a building that covers the space between floors. This horizontal band of glass conceals the floor edge slab, HVAC ducts, wiring, insulation, and more. The challenge is that this area isn’t air conditioned or heated like the spaces above and below it. It’s a tough environment, in other words, and that puts strain on the glass, which may lead to the glass fracturing or even falling off a building—a major problem.
To prevent this glass is tempered, or heat-strengthened. This process strengthens the glass to improve its resistance to extreme heat or cold. If the glass does break, it breaks into small pieces rather than large, dangerous shards. It’s the same process used in auto glass to mitigate risks in accidents.
Manufacturers have also developed techniques to strengthen glass for other uses. After Hurricane Andrew caused billions of dollars in damage in 1992, building codes changed drastically. Back then, high winds shattered windows and water rushed in, causing extensive damage to homes and buildings. Authorities began to require laminated glass in these areas to prevent such outcomes. Laminated glass features a plastic or vinyl inner layer that holds the glass in place in case of breakage.
Furthermore, using silicone or different types of gaskets seals the gap between the window and the frame, helping hold the broken glass in place. These techniques are also used to create bullet-resistant glass, which contains a polyvinyl inner layer surrounded by multiple layers of glass. All of these innovations lead to higher quality, longer lasting, safer glass in our spaces.