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Assessing the In-Plane Racking Performance of Glass Faade Systems

S. Sivanerupan*, J. L. Wilson* and E. F. Gad* *Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, VIC, 3122, Australia (E-mail: ABSTRACT Glass faade systems in buildings may be subjected to racking action due to inter storey drift caused by earthquake and wind actions. The performance of faade systems is dependent on the amount of drift and the interaction of the glass panels with the faade structural support frames. The glass faade systems can be classified into two types namely, framed glass faade system (FGFS) and point fixed glass faade system (PFGFS). It was observed that the damage to glass faade systems resulting from in-plane racking actions mainly from earthquakes is increasingly common and yet there have been limited number of laboratory tests and detailed analyses undertaken. The research conducted to date mainly focused on traditional FGFS. However the seismic performance of PFGFS is likely to be quite different from conventional framed systems. If the system does not have enough in-plane drift capacity it will be vulnerable in racking actions mainly during earthquakes and wind actions. A unique real scale in-plane racking laboratory test on a typical PFGFS was conducted. The major aim of the project is to assess the inplane racking performance of PFGFS. In this paper, the laboratory test setup and the experimental results are discussed together with confirmatory analytical studies. KEYWORDS Glass faade systems; Earthquake loading; In-plane drift capacity, point fixed glazing

INTRODUCTION Glass faade systems provide the interface between the internal and the external environments and therefore have significant impact on the building aesthetics. Conventionally, the glass faade is framed using aluminium mullions and transoms. A relatively new contemporary glass faade system is available which provides greater transparency and improved aesthetics, known as point fixed or bolt fixed glass faade systems. In the structural design of glass faades both out-of-plane and in-plane actions are considered by the faade engineer. Self-weight, thermal expansion, spandrel beam deflection and in-plane building movements due to wind and seismic loadings are considered for in-plane design whilst wind load on glass panel is the main design action for out-ofplane performance. From a seismic design perspective, glass faade systems are considered to be drift sensitive non-structural elements and the performance is dependent on the in-plane drift capacity of the system which should be greater than the in-plane drift demand. In-plane drift provisions in standards are recommended for serviceability and ultimate limit states. AS 1170.4 (2007), clauses 5.4.4 and 5.5.4, specify that, the inter-storey drift at the ultimate limit state, calculated from the forces determined according to strength and stability provisions shall not exceed 1.5% for a 500 year return period (RP) event of the storey height for each level and the attachment of cladding and faade panels to the seismic-force-resisting system shall have sufficient deformation and rotational capacity. The New Zealand Standard Earthquake actions, NZS 1170.5 (2004) specifies in clause 7.5 that, a maximum inter-storey drift limit of 2.5 % is applicable for the ultimate limit state of 500 year RP event. In the case of a 2500 year RP near fault event, this limit has to be increased to 3.75%. From discussions with faade design experts, the glass faades

are generally designed for in-plane racking performance due to wind loading which is usually H/500 (0.2%) for serviceability conditions. ASCE- 10 (2010) provides a general expression for assessing conventional FGFS under in-plane loading as expressed by Equation 1. The drift capacity (fallout) of a framed system is to be greater than the drift demand which is a function of inter-storey drift from the building (Dp) and the occupancy importance factor (I).
fallout 1.25 ID p or13mm whichever is greater (1)

Exceptions are recommended by ASCE7-10 (2010) for framed glass faades with sufficient glassto-frame clearance such that physical contact between the glass and frame will not occur at the design drift demonstrated by Equation 2.

hp c2 Dclear 1.25 Dp ; and Dclear 2c1 1 + bp c1


Where hp = height of rectangular glass; bp = width of rectangular glass, c1 = clearance (gap) between the vertical glass edges and the frame; and c2 = clearance (gap) between the horizontal glass edges and the frame. The mechanism of contact between the glass and frame is explained by Sucuoglu and Vallabhan (1997), considering rigid body movement and rotation of the glass panel. In FGFS, if the exceptions are not satisfied, mock-up tests can be carried out to evaluate the drift inplane drift capacity. American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) specifies the laboratory test methods for both static and dynamic testing to evaluate the in-plane drift capacity of FGFS (AAMA, 2001a, 2001b). However, the seismic performance of PFGFS is different from the conventional FGFS and there are no standards or design guidelines available to evaluate the in-plane drift capacity of such systems. Spider arms are used to connect the glass to the support structure in PFGFS and the glass to the spider arms are connected using special bolt fittings (Figure 1). Despite its growing popularity, there is very limited published research on the behaviour of PFGFS under in-plane racking action.

M16 bolts to connect spider arm


Button head

Spider arms

Figure 1 Spider arms for single bolt connection and bolt fittings A research project has just been completed by the authors to evaluate the racking performance of PFGFS. This involves laboratory experimental study and analytical modelling of PFGFS with toughened glass panels. This paper provides an overview of the laboratory experimental testing and analysis of a typical PFGFS currently used in Australia. Details of the PFGFS configuration and experimental test set-up, instrumentation and test results are presented. The racking performance of

the PFGFS was also simulated using ANSYS finite element software with some results presented herein.

EXPERIMENTAL TEST Specimen description

The test was conducted on a typical PFGFS as shown in Figure 2, which consisted of four 1200mm x 1200mm toughened 12mm thick glass panels joined with 8mm thick silicon weather sealant. There are four different types of bolt fittings available in the market to connect the glass-to-spider arms namely, countersunk, button head, swivel button head and swivel countersunk as shown in Figure 1. Countersunk bolt fittings and spider arm with single bolt connected to the support structure were used in this test which allows in-plane rotation of glass panels at the spider arm-tosupport structure connection (Figure 1). The glass bolt hole details were prepared according to the location of the glass to spider arms connections and the dimension of the countersunk bolt fittings. A support structure was designed to support four 1200mm x 1200mm glass panels and fabricated using 180PFCs as shown in Figures 2 and 3. The in-plane racking performance of PFGFS is dependent on the glass panels, the connection details (between the glass to spider arm and between the spider arm to support structure) and the support structure. In this test the support structure was articulated so that the racking performance of the glass panels and the connection details could be assessed.

Detail of the test setup

The support structure (blue frame) was assembled into the test rig (yellow frame) as shown in Figure 2a. Three vertical and two horizontal PFC members were pin connected and snug tightened using M24 bolts to allow the frame to rack as a mechanism. The setup was capable of imposing a 100kN in-plane lateral load and up to 150 mm in-plane displacement. The support structure was prevented from moving in the out-of-plane direction by four sets of rollers mounted at the top (Figure 2a). The rollers ensured that the support structure was aligned with the loading direction. Once the support structure was assembled glaziers fixed the spider arms, glass panels and weather sealant (Figure 2b). A special transparent adhesive film was applied to the glass panels to secure the glass fragments after any glass fracture. A hydraulic jack was mounted on the reaction frame (yellow) shown in Figure 2 & 3 and used to laterally load the support structure (blue frame) and the faade system.



Figure 2 (a) Support structure assembled into the test rig and (b) Glass panels installed

Test procedure and Instrumentation The test procedure and instrumentation were as follows: The specimen was pulled at the top right hand corner with displacement increments until failure. Two systems of measurements were adopted to maximise the outcomes from this test: o Displacement measurements with LVDTs (Linear Voltage Displacement Transducers) and o Photogrammetry measurements Deflections were measured at 11 locations (horizontal, vertical and out-of- plane) with the LVDTs (Figure 3 and the applied load was measured using a load cell (Figure 3). Photogrammetry provided displacement data for the target points that were tactically positioned (Figure 4). Photographs of the targets were taken before and after each load step and the relative movement in their positions were interpreted using software based on the principles of triangulation.
1- Top displacement
90x90x10 EA


Hydraulic Jack

10 1


100 x16 Flat Bar

Load Cell

6 11


4 2

Glass Panels

Out-of-plane deformations of the glass panel In-plane lateral relative movement of glass 3panels In-plane vertical relative movement of 4glass panels 5- Spider arm vertical movement
26- Corner spider arm vertical movement 7- Internal central spider arm movement

3 7

9 8


Lateral movement of the test frame at the bottom Vertical movement of the test frame at the 9bottom 10- Movement of the reactive frame at the top Out-of-plane deformations of the glass 11panel

Figure 3 General layout of test setup


The pushover curve measured at the top of the support structure (LVDT No. 1 in Figure 3) from the test is shown in Figure 8. It indicates that the structure performed almost linearly up to failure. A maximum displacement of 58 mm was measured with a corresponding 16kN racking load before failure. Surprisingly this corresponds to a maximum of 2.1% in-plane drift capacity for the system with only minor damage to the sealant. However, yielding of the spider arms was observed before the catastrophic failure of one of the glass panels. The failure of the glass panel is shown in Figure 4. The adhesive films protected the glass fragments from falling. It was observed during the experimental test that the glass panels and the spider arms, all translated and rotated as rigid bodies whilst the sealant deformed at the interface. The spider arms used in this experiment had a frictional moment (torsion) capacity beyond which rotation would occur. A simple truss analysis was carried out to determine the loading actions (tension or compression) in the panels as shown in Figure 5a. The initial (blue) and the final (red) locations of the panels are shown to scale in Figure 5b and these represent the translations that occurred in the glass panels before failure. The weather sealant initially prevented the rotation of the spider arms however, within beyond a 3mm racking displacement, rotation in the perimeter arms was observed (Figure 6a).

Figure 4 The test specimen after failure of a glass panel A significant amount of rigid body translation followed by bearing action in both the horizontal and vertical directions was observed at the bolted connections where the built-in standard gaps allowed. The weather sealant offered some resistant against tensile, compressive and shear actions and resisted some relative movement of the glass panels in both in-plane and out-of-plane directions. The applied load was eccentric to the bolted glass panels, which created differential out-of-plane deformations on the spider arms resulting in the glass panels displacing in the out-of-plane direction relative to each other. A significant amount of out-of-plane movement was observed between arms PBB4 (Panel PB spider arm B4) to PDB2 and PAB3 to PCB1 (Figures 8a & 9b) with a maximum differential movement of approximately 8.5mm, which induced combined local bending and tensile stresses particularly around the bolt to glass panel (Bolt PBB4) connection resulting in the initiation of cracking and catastrophic failure of the bottom right hand panel as shown in Figure 4.
Translation of the glass panel at the drill holes


B4 B3



Glass panel (PC)

Glass panel (PD)





Height (mm) 1500


B4 B3



Glass panel (PA)

Glass panel (PB)



B2 B1

0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500



Width (mm)



Figure 5 (a) Glass panels and spider arms labelled including the rotational directions (b) Translation of the spider arms and glass panels

20 15 10 Vertical displacement (mm) 5 0 0 -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 Lateral displacement (mm) PAB1 PDB4 PBB2 PAB2 PAB3 PAB4 PBB4 PDB3 PCB3 10 20 30 40 50 60

9 8 7 Deformation (mm) 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Lateral displacement (mm)

PDB2 to PBB4 PCA3 to PCB1

(b) Figure 6 (a) Displacement of the spider arms in the vertical direction (spider arm rotation) (b) Differential out-of-plane movement of the spider arms against the system displacement The application of a racking load to the structural support frame resulted in diagonal forces developing in the glass panels transmitted from the spider arms bearing on the glass bolt holes as illustrated in Figure 5a. The net force transmitted from the spider arm connection to the glass panel was approximately along the diagonal direction but eccentric resulting in one arm moving out wards from the structural support frame and the other arm moving inwards causing relative out-of-plane movement of the adjacent glass panels. The experimental results revealed that the applied racking displacement was accommodated by three mechanisms:


o In-plane rigid body rotation of the spider arms; o Rigid body translation facilitated by the built-in standard gaps between the bolts and holes with in the spider arm and structural support frame connections; and o Deformations and distortions of the spider arms. ANALYTICAL MODELLING
Based on the experimental results and racking mechanism observed a detailed three-dimensional non-linear finite element model (FE model) was developed using ANSYS finite element software to replicate the laboratory tests. The FE model is shown in Figure 7.

Features of the model

The model was created with a number of features to represent the racking behaviour, including;

The structural support frame, spider arms and M10 bolt to connect the spider arm to glass panel were modelled using beam elements, Allowance for the spider arm to rotate when it overcomes the internal frictional force at the structural support frame connections. This action was modelled using non-linear springs with real constants assigned to represent the frictional torsional moment versus rotation at the spider arm connection, Glass panels were modelled using shell elements and finely meshed around the glass holes to determine the failure stresses,

Conservatively, the countersunk bolt head was modelled as a 20mm diameter cylindrical head and modelled using shell elements, The translations between (a) bolt fittings and spider arm and (b) spider arm and support structure were modelled using non-linear springs, and Silicon sealant was modelled using a material model specified in the ANSYS called Blatz and Ko (Bondi and McClelland, 2009) which is a one parameter model to represent hyper elastic behaviour.



Figure 7 (a) Front view of the model, showing glass, sealant and bolt heads and (b) side view of the model, showing the support structure, spider arms and bolt fittings. The results obtained from the FE models were benchmarked against the test data including, pushover curve, failure stress and out-of-plane deformation of glass panels. A good correlation was found between the experimental and analytical results as shown in Figure 8. Further detailed FE analyses were conducted to evaluate the racking capacity from each mechanism. The analyses showed that a significant amount of the drift capacity was contributed from the rigid body translation facilitated by the built-in standard gaps between the bolts and holes within the spider arm and structural support frame connections (1.1% drift). The estimated drift contributions from each mechanism using the FE models are summarised as follows: a) In-plane rigid body rotation of the spider arms 0.4%. b) Rigid body translation facilitated by the built-in standard gaps between the bolts and holes with in the spider arm and structural support frame connections 1.1%. c) Deformations and distortions of the spider arms 0.5%.

Figure 8 Pushover curve for the test specimen

In-plane racking test on a typical PFGFS currently used in Australia was conducted. A maximum in-plane lateral displacement of 58 mm was measured with a corresponding 16kN racking load before failure. This translates to a 2.1% in-plane drift capacity for the system with minor damage to the sealant and yielding of a perimeter spider arm, before catastrophic bending failure of one of the glass panels. The bending stresses were induced from an approximately 8.5mm relative out-of-plane movement at the adjacent glass bolted connections. It was verified from the experimental and analytical results that the applied racking displacement was accommodated by three mechanisms. The major contribution was from the rigid body translation (1.1% drift) at the built in standard gaps provided in the connections. Conservatively, the in-plane racking capacity of the PFGFS from only the rigid body translation at the built in standard gaps could be used as the design in-plane drift capacity. The drift capacity could be increased further by introducing additional articulation tolerances at the bolted connections at the spider arms or faade structural support frame. Simple trigonometric equations can be developed to quantify the drift contribution from the built in gaps. The seismic assessment of glass faade systems requires an estimate of the likely drift demand from the building. Codified provisions for in-plane drift limits on glass faade systems can be used as a conservative option. However, analysis results indicated that the inter-storey drift could be much smaller than the 1.5% limit in AS1170.4 (2007) for most buildings in Australia for the 500 year RP event except for soft storey structures. Therefore, standard seismic analysis procedures could be used to calculate the drift from the buildings to optimise the glass faade design. Further experimental tests and analytical studies on PFGFS are underway by the authors.

The authors are very grateful to AEES for awarding the research scholarship for 2010 which assisted with financing the test. We are also very grateful to Bill Vun, Jon Yan and Leonard Tan from Australian Glass Assemblies and Lynton Wombwell from Viridian World Glass for supplying the spider arms fittings and the glass panels. We also acknowledge the University of Melbourne for providing access to the laboratory and Melbourne Testing Services in particular Rodney Wilkie for

the active test support. Our special thanks go to PhD students, David Heath from the University of Melbourne, Deepti Wagle and Bara Baraneedaran from Swinburne University of Technology for their assistance.

REFERENCES AAMA 2001a. Recommended static test method for evaluating curtain wall and storefront systems subjected to seismic and wind induced inter-story drifts. Publication No. AAMA 501.4-01,, Schaumburg, III. AAMA 2001b. Recommended dynamic test method for determining the seismic drift causing glass fallout from a wall system. Publication No. AAMA 501. 6-01,, Schaumburg, III. AS1170.4 2007. Structural design actions, Part 4: Earthquake Actions in Australia. Australian Standard, Standards Australia, 1 The Crescent, Homebush, NSW 2140. ASCE7-10 2010. Minimum design loads for buildings and other structures. 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, Virginia 20191-4400: The American Society of Civil Engineers. BONDI, S. & MCCLELLAND, N. 2009. Capturing structural silicone non-linear behaviour via the finite element method. Glass processing days 2009, Tampere, Finland, 183185. NZS 1170.5 2004. Structural design actions, Part 5: Earthquake actions. New Zealand Standard. SUCUOGLU, H. & VALLABHAN, C. V. G. 1997. Behaviour of window glass panels during earthquakes Engineering Structures, 19, 685-694.