Volume 35, Number 1, January 2000
Glass, Glass Everywhere
treat it with r-e-s-p-e-c-t!
by Dez Farnady
From Big Sur to La Jolla, the beaches of the California coast offer the most wonderful ocean vistas, complete with sparkling water and booming surf. I grew up along that coast and learned to love the water, in all of its forms, from being in it, on it and around it. I also learned to have no fear, but a great deal of respect for its dangers, its treachery and its immense power.
What does this have to do with glass you might ask? Strange as it may seem, after all the years I have been in and around the glass business, I kind of feel the same way about glass. I love the look of the great glass towers of San Francisco or the view of the Golden Gate through the glass windows of the houses on top of the Oakland hills.
The glass houses perched on top of the Big Sur cliffs with the crashing waves down below bring the two together. Looking at the ocean through huge panels of 3/8-inch LOF blue-green glass makes chills run down my spine. I get chills for two reasons: one is the sheer beauty of the experience and the other is the danger both the water and the glass may pose. The cliffs and the water are three hundred feet below and the house, with its 7- by 11-foot picture windows, is sitting practically on the San Andreas Fault.
We all know the dangers water can pose and most reasonable human beings respect water, but who do you know who fears or respects glass?
Well, maybe we all better think about it. Since the advent of laws requiring safety glazing in doors, sidelites and patio doors, we no longer hear the once common horror stories of people running through annealed crystal or even 8-inch patio doors. Most of this generation does not remember the bloody damage those products can cause. Since we no longer ship stoce glass by rail car, even most of us in the glass business have forgotten what used to happen to the rail car full of 130- by 204-stoce packs when the car was bumped too hard at some stop in transit. The rail company owned the car and the glass company had to remove the broken glass. Climbing around in a gondola car full of split stock sheets was not my idea of a fun way to spend the day (thats how long it took to break and shovel 40,000 pounds of glass out of that bucket).
When the Loma Prieta earthquake rattled the Richter scale as it hit the San Francisco Bay area, we were fortunate and suffered no major stoce glass damage. But I can tell you that I have been between stoce racks when they began to dance and the ground shook. I never knew I could move so quickly.
These scenarios are obviously dangerous, but fortunately they are reasonably rare. The dangers are clearly apparent when you are in the business. Some circumstances are not so obvious. We now have glass everywhere. Glass walls in malls go from the floor to the ceiling (skylights then take over). The store entrance is made of glass and so are the shelves, cabinet walls and doors for the display cases. At home, the patio door is glass as is the shower door, the coffee table and the mirrors. These are the blessings of the industry that surround us and keep my kids well fed.
Glass is tough and durable far beyond my comprehension, but it will break. It is therefore entitled to a great deal of respect. We must realize that to continue to enjoy the gifts that glass can provide for us, we must be sure its design is appropriate for each given application. The glass must be thick enough to meet the load requirements; it must not exceed the deflection limits; and it must be supported structurally. Glass is not structural; it must be glazed properly and not be load bearing. In other words, the wide range of uses is tempting us to abuses. Its great stuff, but use it right. When it breaks, there is hell to pay.
Dez Farnady is manager of architectural products for ACI Distribution in Santa Clara, CA. His column appears monthly.
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