Lives Saved at St. Louis Airport, Possibly Thanks to Safety Glass Renovations
May 6, 2011

Safety glazing renovations done over the past decade may have helped save lives when tornadoes struck the St. Louis airport.

Two weeks ago the city of St. Louis was devastated after tornadoes crushed through the area. Of the many homes and buildings suffering damages, the Lamberts-St. Louis International Airport was one of the hardest hit. Among the damages at the airport, up to 50 percent of the windows were blown out. While flying, broken glass could have been cause for serious injuries or even death, no fatalities were reported and only five people were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries. Perhaps it was renovations done to the glass over the past decade that may have helped save lives.

Built in 1956, the airport was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, famed architect who also designed the original World Trade Center in New York. Jeff Lea, PR manager for the airport, told USGNN.com™ that the terminal's façade featured two sets of windows, as well as skylight systems.

Lea explained that the glass in the skylight was originally ¼-inch wired glass. However, in 2001 the skylights sustained damages and then had to be brought up to code. Heat-strengthened laminated glass was installed. With the stronger glass in place, this recent tornado caused only minor damage-the lites broke, but never dislodged from the roof structure.

"They [the skylights] suffered damage but they did not break out," says Lea.

As for the airport's curtainwall, this had consisted of ¼-inch plate glass.

Lea explains that in 2003, given the climate of terrorism, the airport decided to do some renovations that would enhance the safety of the glass. He says in 2004 the façade was retrofitted with an applied safety film.

Recent tornadoes blew out approximately half of the windows at the St. Louis airport.

"After the tornado all the panes were destroyed but the glass did not shatter," says Lea. "It was held in tact, potentially saving lives and [avoiding] injuries."

He adds, "Some [lites] fell, but they fell as one big piece."

According to Lea, full damage assessments are still underway and that will help determine exactly what will need to be specified for the replacement.

"Within two weeks we should have out a request for proposal (RFP) for companies to send in there proposals on their qualifications to do the job to replace the windows," says Lea.

He adds that all the windows will be custom so they want to get the RFP process started soon "because the windows will [require] longer lead times to re-create."

As far as the make-up expected for the new glazing systems, Lea says they will have the best safety features available, per code, and that great care will be taken to stay true to the architectural integrity and aesthetics of the structure.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
CLICK HERE to subscribe to USGlass magazine.