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
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.”
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
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
“[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
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,
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
“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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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.