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Glass breakages raise safety concern

Post Time:Mar 26,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:540

The number of incidents is rising in the UAE when it comes to tempered glass breakage, warn experts. Using heat-strengthened glass or subjecting the glass to heat soak tests at the manufacturer will mitigate the safety issues to end-users, they recommend. If the impurity is very high, the breakage can accelerate with the high temperatures in the Gulf.

"Tempered glass is strong. But when subject to higher temperatures, impurities in the glass start to granule and make spots in the glass panels. This defect, in particular sizes, will result in glass breakage. So when you put this glass in a project and the temperatures go up, these particles will start to expand if this glass is directly exposed to the heat. You must note that, sometimes, if the impurity is very high, the glass will crack even at 25 degree celcius. This probability can go higher with the temperatures here, which can go up to 50 degree celcius. Suddenly, you will get glass breakage," said Tamer Mohamed Farid El Asmer, senior architect (civil projects division) at Adnoc. "This situation will compromise on the safety to the end-users in such buildings, the reputation of the developer should such an incident takes place and also that of the consultant and the contractor. It is also a psychological problem." The breaking glass can fall on an unsuspecting passer-by causing injury or loss of life.

"I am hearing this from all my peers in Dubai that they are facing cases of breakage though there has not been any loss of life as yet. It could be one piece in a building every 10 years. But in some cases, like a project that I was investigating, the figure went up to around 20 pieces of glass. The problem can resolved by choosing other alternatives. The first is to avoid using tempered glass, except in areas where there is a high need for security, he added.

"If it is still recommended, then opt for the middle-range glass, which is heat-strengthened glass," he said.

El Asmer was peaking on the sidelines of the recently held Façade Design and Engineering 2009, organised by IQPC. "If forced as part of the project, then the glass industry specifies the heat soak test. It is not a cure but a simulation of the actual condition and will help you avoid the problem before installation. The test is done at the factory of the glass manufacturer," said El Asmer.

He recommends that architects have to specify this in the initial stage. "The client, in the end, might not know what is required. But you should give him the chance to select what risk, he wants to take," said El Asmer.

His views were echoed by Lars Anders, Managing Director at Priedmann Consultants, who said that safety is the most important aspect in any project. The firm is undertaking projects in Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. "Safety first. These incidents started being taken seriously this year in Germany, when we had a court ruling over the use of tempered glass in projects due to a particular incident, which caused loss of life. So we have started writing to our clients that they may have to rethink their strategy on that kind of glass and even go in for a re-glazing approach," said Anders. "We don't need that problem on our shoulders and so inform the building owners that the risk is there."

The problems in the Middle East come from the main contractors and not the client, he added.

"In the Middle East, I have to say that, the critical point is when main contractors come in. They title cheaper engineering as value-engineering. But high-performance buildings are not the right buildings for design and build contracts. They have to be fully engineered by a design team in the name of the client who is the owner," said Anders.

"Don't compromise. We will not use fully-tempered glass on the exteriors of our projects. I wish that we make some improvement in the interests of the people who stand behind that glass and think that it is safe. We have not yet seen loss of life. But by being responsible for that part, I have to say as a consultant, that if you spend so much on a building and a portion of that to make the façade safe, it is not a great cost."

He said that there is no difference between costs for heat-strengthened glass and fully-tempered glass. "While, the advantage of the latter is that it can bear more load, you can also increase the thickness of the former. It will be a bit more costly but when you see these unusual designs that are being done in this region and the kind of money being spent on them, then it is unacceptable that safety is being compromised."

Source: Business24-7.aeAuthor: shangyi

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