Volume 46, Issue 11 - December 2011

feature

Like-Minded Thinking
Australia’s Glass Industry Gathered to Discuss Impact Products, Trends and More
by Ellen Rogers

If Hurricane Andrew made South Florida and much of the Eastern seaboard realize the importance of safe and sound building components—including glass—then perhaps Cyclone Yasi will have a similar effect in parts of Australia. The storm struck the “land down under” earlier this year, leaving behind an estimated $3 billion in damages. Researchers at the Cyclone Testing
Station and the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, James Cook University conducted a study that “reinforced the need to design the whole low-rise building envelope, including cladding, doors, windows, roller doors, eaves lining and skylights to resist the expected ultimate limit states wind forces. It also highlighted the role of dominant openings in determining the internal pressures in buildings.”

Sound familiar?

Cyclones were a topic of discussion during Ausfenex 2011, which took place September 21-23 in Queensland, Australia. The meeting brought more than 500 people together from both the Australian Glass and Glazing Association and the Australian Window Association for a program that covered a range of topics, not unlike those commonly discussed at similar North American association meetings.

Windows and Storms
Cam Leitch of the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University led the discussion about glass and cyclones, going so far as to show a wind-speed map for the country, not unlike wind-speed maps commonly seen and referenced in North America. Leitch stressed that for the windows it’s important to make sure that all components, connections, fasteners, etc., are designed and tested as a whole system.

“The windload action must be less than the actual capacity,” Leitch told his audience. “We can not control the windload action, but we can control the actual capacity by using the correct design parameters, etc.”

Speaking of external pressure, Leitch explained this is when the wind blows over the buildings.

“The house diverts the streamlines … the house forces a change to the wind-flow streamlines,” he said, but stressed that the big issue is internal pressure.

“[When glass breaks] the internal pressure pressurizes the void space of the house,” Leitch said, noting that often when the door or window breaks, the pressurization is what pulls the roof off.

“If the window fails then the building experiences large amounts of internal pressurization,” he said.

Likewise, wind-borne debris is also important. Leitch said new windload standards have increased wind speeds and researchers have found that debris can accelerate very quickly.

As a result of Cyclone Yasi, which Leitch called “a big fellow,” research and studies have shown the importance of window performance. Findings have shown a need for better door and window connections.

A World of Possibilities
Julie Schimmelpenningh of Solutia has given numerous presentations around the globe on everything from glass and glazing trends, codes and standards, and laminated glass. Her stint “down under” was no exception as she spoke on “Glass and Windows—A World of Possibilities.”

She began with a bit of history. Looking back to castles, she pointed out there were no windows but “the key as houses evolved was that people wanted comfort,” she said, and explained that the more glass was used the more we learned. For example, she said we eventually found that putting glass on the south side of the building would allow the sun in and plants could be grown inside—in greenhouses.

Schimmelpenningh took a look at a number of glass buildings around the world, such as the Willis Tower’s glass ledge in Chicago and the 1 Bligh Street Building in Sydney, Australia’s first double-skin façade.

“Glass trends are really keeping up with the Joneses,” she said. “We’re living and working closer together. Buildings must perform and they must be durable.”

She also talked about the importance of energy requirements.

Windows and doors are just critical for good performance
of the building envelope.
- Cam Leitch, Cyclone Testing
Station, James Cook University

“You have to look at energy considerations because codes are driving us that way to conserve as much as possible,” she said.

She added that the trend toward increasingly larger buildings, which also means increasingly larger glass and windows.

“Everyone wants to be the biggest building in the world,” she said.

With all this in mind, what can glass do? Lots, said Schimmelpenningh. She pointed out that glass can resist human impact and also provide storm protection. Likewise, from a structural standpoint it can handle wind and/or snow loads.

From a solar and energy perspective, glass also plays a major role in areas such as daylighting, fade resistance, solar control, thermal resistance, etc.

She also said that with so much increasing interest and demand it’s important to be aware that there can be concerns when it comes to product choices. She looked at the example of the many cases of falling glass this year (see October 2011 USGlass, page 32). She said there are many potential causes of falling glass and we have to be cognizant of what’s happening. “It’s not just spontaneous breakage,” Schimmelpenningh said, and added the importance of being aware of the societal impact these incidents can have.

“When you’re closing down streets for weeks at a time you’re affecting the economy,” she said.

Glass Market Report
Just as the North American market has been impacted by increasing imports of Chinese glass, so, too, has Australia. And as the U.S. construction industry continues to struggle, the Australian market is doing so as well. Steve Choat of Viridian gave a report on the Australian glass market and noted that in the past two years the market has continued to see a gradual decline. He said in the last year there has been an 8-percent decline and the last quarter was particularly weak.

Taking a look at the glass usage by states, Victoria, in the southeastern part of the country, “has been the engine as it’s the largest market.” There have been declines in Queensland and New South Wales (NSW).

Of products driving the Australian glass market, Choat said windows represent about 69 percent of total glass requirements, 54 percent is residential and nonresidential is about 46 percent.

Choat said commercial work has fallen in 2010 and 2011.

He said underlying demand for residential starts is quoted at 180,000 housing units and there’s a four-year average of 150,000 so there is a big backlog. Choat said confidence in the market is critical, as is the availability of financing.

Likewise, there are many opportunities with respect to energy efficiency.

“Sell the benefits of glass,” he said, adding that aesthetic options are an opportunity, as well, that can add value to glass.

“There are plenty of solutions, but we have to sell the benefits,” he said. “Sell more effectively … sell those high-value products [so we] have a more flourishing industry.”

He added, “Yes, it’s challenging ... but [there’s] underlying strength ... sell the benefits to consumers.”

And the same holds true in the United States: selling the benefits of glass could just help keep the industry moving forward, despite slow conditions.

Ellen Rogers is a contributing editor of USGlass magazine. Follow her on Twitter @DG_magazine and read her blog at www.decorativeglassmag.com.



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