Volume 35, Number 8, August 2000


a message from the publisher

Much Ado About Something

A recent two-part series in the Chicago Tribune points out many of the misconceptions that face the glass industry on a daily basis. The investigative report, published July 16 and 23, provided some background on the catastrophic glass failure that led to the death of 37-year-old Ana Flores in October 1999. She was struck in the head with a piece of broken glass that fell from the 27-year old CNA Building, a Chicago landmark (see October 1999 USGlass, page 13).

Not included in the article was the fact that witnesses say the broken glass beheaded the woman right in front of her three-year-old daughter.

USGlass magazine and its sister publication, Window Film, have been covering this story since it happened and broke a lot of the news included in the Tribune article. The facts are relatively simple: the building has always had a problem with glass breakage. Most experts believe it is due to the uneven stresses on the glass. CNA even hired an architectural firm to investigate. Their report suggested that the windows be replaced or at least reinforced with an anchored film restraint system which, according to the Tribune, “would hold in place any cracked glass until it could be replaced.”

With some modifications, the failure rates of these units slowed until June 7, 1999 when a crack was discovered in a window on the 29th floor. “As a temporary solution, workers applied a thin white adhesive film to the entire pane of glass to prevent pieces from falling out and to brace wood inside the window frame,” said the article. “But the window was not replaced. Instead, the film, which was designed to hold the glass for just a day or two, stayed in place for 17 weeks.”

What struck me, in addition to the horror of the story, was how unaware the people involved were about the physical characteristics of glass and the cause of the failure. When a lite of glass fell from the CNA building in 1994 and hit a passerby in the back, inspector James Ronzio had this theory: “Spontaneous window failure.” Ronzio did admit, however, that this was a huge assumption on his part that was “probably far from the truth.” It also reminds me how important it is to have true experts doing the work and following up. In fact, Ronzio admitted, “I’m not an expert on this.” Sadly, those most often in need of education (those in the building or maintenance profession) are the ones least likely to think they need it.

Educational efforts must continue in both the glass and film industries so that want happened to Ana Flores never happens to anyone again—and so that neither the glass nor film industries get saddled with blame they don’t deserve.

• • •

You will probably be reading this in late August, when everything slows down before gearing up again for the Fall. So before 2001 planning begins, before the kids go back to school, before the race starts to close up those buildings before the bad weather hits, please make sure you have had some summer. It doesn’t take much—sometimes it can be as short as a lazy afternoon on a porch, or a late-night ride in a fast car with the top down, or a good softball game. Here’s wishing you your own patch of invincible summer to carry into winter

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Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.