A group of more than 100 inmates at the City Justice Center in St. Louis escaped their cells and broke windows amid a protest of the jail’s conditions on Saturday. Images show the inmates, dressed in yellow uniforms, standing behind three broken glass windows with what appears to be smoke or fire damage on one window and the building’s façade. The extensive glass damage shown in images from the protest may raise the question: what kind of glass was used in the jail?
Industry consultant Chris Barry says the glass looks like typical commercial office double glazing. He describes one lite of glass as likely 6 mm tinted and/or coated glass that is probably heat strengthened to resist solar thermal stress. The windows appear to have had a ½-inch air space then a 6 mm lite of clear anneal glass.
“I see no sign of any lamination or post applied films,” he says. “Such construction should be fine for an office but hardly suitable for a location where impact resistance might be needed.”
While it’s possible security glazing is used in other areas of the facility, it doesn’t appear that it was used throughout the entire building. Cost can be a barrier for local governments to purchase security glazing options. However, it’s unclear if that was the case in this instance.
According to the St. Louis government website, the City Justice Center opened in 2002 as a “state-of-the-art” facility. It was designed by Kennedy Associates Inc., St. Louis, and Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK). The jail has six stories and the capacity to hold 860 inmates.
According to an article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 2002, there are no exterior windows in the cells. Instead, the cell doors have windows, which allows natural light from windows in the common rooms and the gyms to enter the cells.
“Designed for efficiency of operation on a compact site, natural light in the housing pods is provided through large windows in the dayroom and exercise areas where inmates spend their daylight hours, using a concept created by HOK known as ‘borrowed light,’” reads an article by the St. Louis Business Journal written in 1999 after the building’s design was recognized by the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Justice for outstanding design quality.