Glass Building Elements - Technical Aspects of Safe Usage in the Structure

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Recent years have shown increased interest in the use of glass structures in the construction industry. Investors value qualities such as aesthetics and the good environmental resistance of glass. It has become commonplace to use glass not only to construct façades, but also in horizontal partitions (floors, building coverings ) and in such elements as protective canopies, passageway screens or fire barriers. Such extensive use of this building material has been made possible by the development of technology for manufacturing glass with improved strength properties, in particular, toughened and laminated glass. However, glass has some disadvantages as a building material – first of all, low tensile strength, impact strength and point load compressive strength. The use of glass with improved strength properties minimises these defects to a considerable extent. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that glass structures crack or lose their aesthetic value. This results from errors made during the design stage as well as during the construction work on the structure. Based on an “in situ” study and the literature on the subject, the article identifies risks associated with the use of glass elements, in addition to analysing their causes and possible effects. Examples of real elements in the course of their use are provided in order to illustrate the factors under analysis. Moreover, the article includes recommendations linked to the safe usage of glass in the structure when discussed against the background of assembly errors.

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