Consultants Comment on Glass Breakage at
Austin W Hotel
June 28, 2011
For the second time this month glass panels on the balconies
of the Austin W Hotel have broken and, as a result, the hotel
will be replacing every balcony glass panel-nearly 1,000. This
incident follows a similar one on June
10 when three people suffered minor injuries. No one was
though five parked cars were damaged. A statement issued by
the W Austin Hotel notes that "engineering and glass experts
are investigating and we continue to cooperate with city officials
" At this time the reasons for the glass breakage
have yet to be determined. Some in the glass industry say there
are many possible causes of such incidents.
In its statement, the W Austin Hotel said "Based on the
information that is currently available, the hotel believes
that one glass panel on the 31st floor was broken and that the
resulting falling debris broke panels on the 29th and 22nd floors.
It is unknown what caused the first panel to break."
This scenario, according to industry consultant Greg Carney,
president of C.G. Carney Associates Inc., is quite possible,
though he has not reviewed this case in particular. He says
an application such as a balcony railing system would require
the use of a safety glazing material such as fully tempered
or laminated glass. In the event of breakage, tempered glass
in particular could, result in falling glass and debris that
could have then damaged the other panels, causing them to break.
He adds that any number of things could have caused the initial
"It depends upon the thickness of glass, details of the
glazing application, how it was held in place (two-sided or
depending upon these issues there could be
any number of questions, and potential causes" says Carney.
Industry consultant Bill Lingnell agrees that the hotel's breakage
theory is certainly possible, and one he's seen happen in the
past. He also discusses possible causes for the initial breakage.
"Windborne debris and other items flying around during
a storm may cause damage, for example, that could have caused
breakage," Lingnell says, noting that while glass in such
structures must be able to withstand windloads, debris might
still cause breakage.
Lingnell, also not involved with this project, points out that
when determining the cause of breakage you sometimes have to
go back and look at the history of the structure.
"[Breakages] could be due to glass imperfections from
fabrication, design, installation, vandalism
of things could cause this type of damage," he says.
And while a nickel sulfide inclusion, for example, could cause
fully tempered glass to break spontaneously, Lingnell cautions
to not be quick to assume such.
"Don't jump to the conclusion that it's an inclusion
until you have one in your hand," he says.
At press time Drew McQuad, general manager for the Austin W
Hotel, had not responded to USGNN.com's request for comment.
Stay tuned for more updates as they are made available.
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