ICC Rejects Glass Railings Proposals
May 7, 2012

The International Code Council (ICC) reviewed several proposed changes to the International Building Code related to glass railings during its code development hearings held last week and throughout the weekend in Dallas.

Anthony Leto, representing The Wagner Cos., was the proponent of a revision that proposed to replace the words "handrails or guard" with "top rail" in the following section: "Each handrail or guard section shall be supported by a minimum of three glass balusters or shall be otherwise supported to remain in place should one baluster panel fail. Glass balusters shall not be installed without an attached handrail or guard."

Leto said the reason he put forth the proposal, S299-12, was a "disconnect" he sees in the current code. "While the ICC opinion on top railing requirements for monolithic glass baluster guards has remained consistent, we continue to see installations without the required top rail," wrote Leto in his proposal. "Where is the disconnect?"

The committee also rejected the revisions to sections 2407.1 and 2407.1.1, related to materials and loads, as part of proposal S300 - 12. Proponent Thomas S. Zaremba, partner at Roetzel & Andress, representing the Glazing Industry Code Committee, suggested the following revised version for section 2407.1: "Glass used in a handrail, guardrail or a guard section shall be laminated glass constructed of fully tempered glass or heat-strengthened glass and shall comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1. Glazing in railing in-fill panels shall be of an approved safety glazing material that conforms to the provisions of Section 2406.1.1. For all glazing types, the minimum nominal thickness shall be 1/4 inch (6.4 mm)."

Zaremba also suggested adding the following exception: "Single fully tempered glass complying with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1 may be used in handrails and guardrails if there is no walking surface beneath them or the walking surface is permanently protected from the risk of falling glass."

For section 2407.1.1, Zaremba suggested taking out the word "safety" from before "design" in the last sentence and adding the words "for safety" at the end: "The panels and their support system shall be designed to withstand the loads specified in Section 1607.8. A design factor of four shall be used for safety."

Zaremba referenced "several recent incidents involving spontaneous breakage of fully tempered glass in handrail or guardrail systems on high-rise balconies" as the reasoning for the proposal. "This change [would] make mandatory the use of retentive characteristics of laminated glass in these applications unless there is no walking surface below or it is permanently protected from falling glass, in which case, fully tempered glass meeting the safety criteria of Category II of CPSC 16 CFR 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z971. would be permitted," wrote Zaremba in his original proposal. "Additionally, the proposal [would] add the term "guardrail" to section 2407.1 since that term is also used in various locations throughout the I-codes in connection with these types of systems."

Additionally, Zaremba said the proposal changes intended "to make it clear that a 'design' factor of four is required 'for safety.'" "Using the word 'safety' in the way it is currently found in this section is ambiguous and may or may not achieve the section's intended purpose," adds Zaremba in the proposal.

Glass balconies and railings have created a lot of discussion throughout the industry in recent months. CLICK HERE to view a recent article from the March 2012 issue of USGlass on this topic.

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