Volume 46, Issue 5 - June 2011


Safety Glass Saves Lives at St. Louis Airport
In late April the city of St. Louis was devastated after tornadoes crushed through the area. Of the many homes and buildings suffering damages, the Lamberts-St. Louis International Airport was one of the hardest hit. Among the damages at the airport, up to 50 percent of the windows were blown out. Although flying, broken glass could have been cause for serious injuries or even death, no fatalities were reported and only five people were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries. Perhaps it was renovations done to the glass over the past decade that may have helped save lives.

Built in 1956, the airport was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the famed architect who also designed the original World Trade Center in New York. Jeff Lea, PR manager for the airport, told USGlass that the terminal’s façade featured two sets of windows as well as skylight systems.

Lea explained that the glass in the skylight was originally ¼-inch wired glass. However, in 2001 the skylights sustained damages and then had to be brought up to code. Heat-strengthened laminated glass was installed. With the stronger glass in place, this recent tornado caused only minor damage—the lites broke, but never dislodged from the roof structure.

As for the airport’s curtainwall, this had consisted of ¼-inch plate glass. In 2003, given the climate of terrorism, the airport decided to do some renovations that would enhance the safety of the glass. Lea says in 2004 the façade was retrofitted with an applied safety film.

“After the tornado, all the panes were destroyed but the glass did not shatter,” Lea says. “It was held intact, potentially saving lives and [avoiding] injuries.”

At press time, the airport was sending out a request for bids.

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