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A glass of appropriate thickness, when used as a railing, can provide transparency and, when engineered properly, can provide structural performance too and is generally sought in commercial applications (such as in malls) and certain domestic villas.
The basic requirement of a parapet that a glass railing intends to substitute includes protecting people from falling and controlling movement.
Preliminary Design Considerations
The designer/architect must assess the need for a glass railing and the type of railing to be provided, considering the likely hazards, the building use, and the risks to building users.
The below-mentioned preliminary design specifications shall be considered:
- In a building that is used for multiple purposes, either the railing designed for emergency or extreme conditions, or more than one type of railing should be provided, depending upon the location.
- Generally, when there is a change in adjacent levels (600 mm in dwellings, 380 mm in other buildings), a railing must be provided to restrict the movement of people.
- The railing adopted should be designed to minimize the risk of persons falling, rolling, sliding, or slipping through gaps in the railing.
- In dwellings and other buildings, children access, gaps in railing or infill should not be wider than 100 mm.
- The designer/architect should ensure all the elements of the railing system satisfy the criteria given in the relevant standards applicable to the region.
- For general safety, the finished barrier should have no sharp edges or projections that could cause injury to persons.
- Infill panels and balusters are intended to provide support and protection to users. They should be designed to restrain people without causing additional injury from sharp edges, thin sections, open-ended tubes, projecting details, etc.
- The design shall be based on the horizontal uniformly distributed load (UDL) applied at a notional height of 1.1 m above the finished floor level.
Types of Glass Railings
The four common types of glass railings are:
- Full Height Railings
In full height railings, glass forms part or whole of a wall element; the railing should be carefully designed as per the relevant standards applicable in the region.
The minimum barrier heights for various building uses and position is shown in the table below:
2. Railings with a Glass Infill Panel
In this type of railing, the mainframe of the railing (top rail and baluster) should be designed to withstand the loads applied to the top rail, and the glass should be used to form infill panels. However, it should be noted that the glass provides no support to the mainframe.
This type of glass railing can be subcategorized into four types:
1) Glass supported on vertical edges only
This type involves the vertical edges of the glass being supported in a rebate into the side of each vertical post. Thus, the top and bottom edges of the glass are exposed. The glass may also be supported by patch fittings fixed to the posts. In all cases, a handrail is required.
2) Glass supported on horizontal edges only
This type involves a handrail at the top and a channel or a rail at the base of the glass. In this case, the handrail should be designed to carry the railing load with the glass designed to carry the infill load.
3) Glass supported on all four edges
In this type of railing, the glass that forms in the infill of the railing is supported from all four sides.
4) Glass fixed by patch/bolted fittings
This railing system requires two rows of bolts to provide a stiff fixing that minimizes panel deflection. The purpose of these fasteners is to transmit the force delivered to the railing into the support structure.
Because these fixes occupy a limited surface area on the glass and might cause large stresses, a rigorous study is necessary to establish appropriate glass thickness, fixing spacing, and size.
3. Freestanding Glass Protective Railing
In this type of glass railing, the glass is designed to withstand the design loads. Therefore, each glass plate should be rigidly clamped to the structure along its bottom edge, the handrail attached to the glass's top edge, and there should be no balusters.
If a freestanding railing is supplied without a handrail, each panel should be able to withstand the entire appropriate design load.
4. Bracket Systems
These systems are an extension of the bolt-fixed system, in which the bolts are part of a bracket that is attached to the floor or the face of a concrete slab, steel, or timber structure.
The usage of these systems should be carefully explored since they can cause extremely high strains in the glass where the brackets are situated.
The design shall balance glass thickness and bracket location to produce an adequate system. Some systems may be designed to produce test data to justify their use.
Advantages of Glass Railings
The advantages of glass railings are:
- The glass railings are easy to maintain as they do not rot, rust, or decay.
- Glass railings do not require painting and staining which makes them easy and economical to maintain.
- The glass panels are nearly invisible and provide unobstructed views.
- Glass railing is simple to install while giving optimal security. They are resistant to severe winds and accidental falls, as well as adverse weather.
- Buildings with glass railings look larger than they are due to the translucent nature of glass. This feature raises the building's market value.
- The extensive use of glass railing systems may be attributed to its stylistic flexibility, diversity, and ease of installation.
- These glass railing designs are particularly versatile, since they may be utilised in homes, workplaces, hotels, and multifamily structures.
The four common types of glass railings are.
1. Full Height Railings
2. Railings with a Glass Infill Panel
3. Freestanding glass protective railing
4. Bracket systems
The advantages of glass railings are.
1. The glass railings are easy to maintain as they do not rot, rust, or decay.
2. Glass railings do not require painting and staining which makes them easy and economical to maintain.
3. The glass panels are nearly invisible and provide unobstructed views.
4. Glass railing is simple to install while giving optimal security. They are resistant to severe winds and accidental falls, as well as adverse weather.
5. Buildings with glass railings look larger than they are due to the translucent nature of glass. This feature raises the building's market value.
6. The extensive use of glass railing systems may be attributed to their stylistic flexibility, diversity, and ease of installation.
7. These glass railing designs are particularly versatile, since they may be utilized in homes, workplaces, hotels, and multifamily structures.