Volume 47, Issue 12 - December 2012

ICC Approves Proposal to Require
Laminated Glass in Railings

The International Code Council (ICC) recently passed the Glazing Industry Code Committee’s (GICC) code change proposal (S300-12) to require the use of laminated glass in handrail assemblies, guardrails or guard sections. The GICC’s proposal was prompted by several incidents of late involving spontaneous breakage of fully tempered glass in handrail or guardrail systems on high rise balconies. The code change calls for the laminated glass to be constructed of either single fully tempered glass, laminated fully tempered glass or laminated heat-strengthened glass and to comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1. The proposal noted that the glazing used in railing in-fill panels must be of an approved safety glazing material that conforms to the provisions of Section 2406.1.1. For all glazing types, the minimum nominal thickness must be ¼-inch (6.4 mm). Fully tempered glass and laminated glass must comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1. An exception is provided for single fully tempered glass complying with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1 used in handrails and guardrails if there is no walking surface below or the walking surface is permanently protected from the risk of falling glass.

According to Thom Zaremba, a consultant to the Glass Association of North America (GANA) who presented the proposal on behalf of GICC, “it is unlikely that fabricators will ever know whether walkways beneath any particular guard rail system will or will not be permanently protected. Therefore, it is unlikely that fabricators will be able to rely on the exception to avoid the necessity to laminate fully tempered or heat strengthened glass used in these systems.”

During the GANA Fall Conference in September Zaremba explained that the GICC had initially proposed the change earlier this year, but the ICC structural technical committee voted to recommend disapproval. After which GICC submitted a comment based on extensive research, bringing forward cases of a number of balcony failures in both Canada and the United States.

Zaremba said that during this most recent round of hearings, the ICC membership voted by a 2/3 majority to approve “as submitted” GICC’s proposal. The code change will now be included as part of the 2015 IBC.

During the Fall Conference, though, Zaremba had pointed out there are still only a few jurisdictions that have adopted the 2012 IBC “so [the change] is not likely to have an immediate impact.”

Zaremba also told USGlass magazine that during the Final Action hearings he heard from at least one building code official suggesting that these systems may also lack adequate regulation relating to their design and/or construction. He pointed out that this change may not be the end of new regulations that affect not just the glass used in these systems, but also the design and construction of these systems.

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