Toronto Considers Emergency Building Code Amendment to Address Glass Railing Breakages
November 8, 2011

By Megan Headley, mheadley@glass.com

Toronto City Hall's Planning and Growth Management Committee is today hearing the chief building official's report on review into glass balcony guard safety and provide recommendations for further action by the city to address the issue of glass paneled balcony guard safety.

During the summer of 2011, several buildings in Toronto had glass railings spontaneously break on multiple occasions, leading to a city investigation for how to prevent similar such breakages. Click here to read the related article in the October issue of USGlass magazine.

Among the recommendations being made to the Planning and Growth Management Committee are:

  1. That the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing consider an emergency amendment to the Ontario Building Code to better address concerns for public safety when glass paneled balconies may break;
  2. That the Toronto Building and Land Development Association (BILD), TARION, Ontario Association of Architects and Professional Engineers Ontario update their practices and professional training regarding the use of glass panels in balcony guards; and
  3. That the Chief Building Official and Executive Director, Toronto Building report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee in early 2012 to provide a status update on the actions of the City in addressing glass paneled balcony guards and public safety.

According to the Chief Building Official's report, a technical review of the breakages by an engineer retained by Toronto Building identified two potential causes of the various failures. The draft report on the causation of the glass failures identifies nickel sulphide inclusions "as the most likely cause of failure in the buildings where the highest frequency of failure has occurred, potentially aggravated by other factors, such as loading or deflection either by causing glass inclusions to rupture at a higher rate, or as a result of glass to metal contact." In other buildings, "no connection to nickel sulphide inclusions has been drawn from test results to date, whereas significant rates of glass to metal contact were identified."

The engineer also reviewed the relevant requirements of the Ontario Building Code, and identified "some lack of clarity and potential conflict between the building code and standards referenced within it." The report notes that the code references CAN/CGSB 12.1M, the applicable standard for tempered glass, a standard that is 21 years old and was written primarily for "glazed exterior/interior passageway doors, storm (combination) doors, patio doors, shower and bathtub doors and their enclosures," rather than balconies. Of concern is that "this standard does not require assurance that the glass will not break, only that the glass will break into small pieces of a maximum size."

Click here to offer your recommendations to Toronto's Chief Building Official and become a part of this discussion.

Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for additional information as it is available.

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