Glass Railing in The News

glass failure in DenverCity Council approves new panels to replace shattered stair rail at Denver courthouse

There was a news report in Denver, Colorado regarding a glass railing failure at the Lindsey Flanigan Courthouse. Two-and-a-half-years ago, two lites of the glass railing — on two different floors — came crashing down at the courthouse.

However, there is not enough detail in the story to indicate what brought about the failure. The most common types of failure in glass panels would be a point or edge, or spontaneous breakage brought about by a nickel-sulfide inclusion. It’s likely the glass was not laminated but monolithic tempered glass.

The article notes that the glass railing met the building code at the time it was installed.

IBC Requirements

In authorizing the replacement, Denver Public Works decided to meet the current IBC requirement. The current IBC requires laminated glass instead of monolithic glass.

Growing code compliance, higher glass performance requirements, and trends for improved sight lines all place a greater emphasis on safety. Broadly speaking, when it comes to specification and installation it’s the glaziers’ duty to understand which code to follow based upon the specific application of their project and local standards. Codes tend to evolve frequently and vary by jurisdiction. This challenges glaziers to stay on top of the varying regulations and ensure each job is properly specified and installed.

A working knowledge of the most important standard requirements for railings and implications should include height, spacing, and load bearing (keeping in mind the local code may vary):

  • Height: In most residential applications, the guard height must be a minimum of 36” (914mm). In commercial applications, the guard height must be a minimum of 42” (1,067mm).
  • Spacing: No opening in the guard is permitted that would allow the passage of a 4” (100mm) sphere. This 4” sphere rule is a key reason why glass railings have been a popular choice for guard applications as it meets the opening limitation and provides an unobstructed view.
  • Load bearing: The system must meet a concentrated load of 200 pounds (22.8Kg) or a uniform load of 50 pounds/foot (244.1 Kg/m2). When selecting a glass railing system, make sure to acquire the test data from the supplier.

When you are preparing for your next glass railing installation, contact Wagner. We can help you avoid problems before they occur.


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