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Glass in Building

Glass panes are widely used in all modern buildings, commercial or even residential as
façade panels or decorative components:
- Aesthetically good-looking
- Varying colors & reflection (coating/film/tinting1)
- Different methods of fixing
- Tailored acoustic behavior
- High compressive strength
- Visco-elastic
forming into desired shape by heating the glass to the plastic phase to produce
complex shapes
Sag bending: the glass, supported peripherally and heated to the plastic phase, is
allowed to sag under its own weight to the desired shape (gravity sag bending).
Control is through the pattern of temperature distribution across the sheet.
Between 500-600°C, viscosity falls by a factor of 10,000
Glass transforms from a brittle solid to a plastic substance.
- Tailored optical properties (coating or film)
Daylight admission
Solar gain
- Surface pattern can be easily introduced
Surface patterned
Sand blasting and acid etching
Surface Printing / Screen Printing

For similar reasons, glass based hardware is also getting very popular in building:
shower screen doors
tables & desks

melt colorants are added for tinting and solar-radiation absorption properties. This reduces
heat penetration in buildings. Coloured glass is an important architectural element for the
exterior appearance of façades. It is also used in interior decoration (doors, partitions,
staircase panels, mirrors,...).
Float glass

- is a term for perfectly flat, clear glass (basic product). The term "float" glass derives from
the production method, introduced in the UK by Sir Alastair Pilkington in the late 1950's,
by which 90% of today's flat glass is manufactured.

The raw materials (silica sand, calcium, oxide, soda and magnesium) are properly weighted
and mixed and then introduced into a furnace where they are melted at 1500° C. The
molten glass then flows from the glass furnace into a bath of molten tin in a continuous
ribbon. The glass, which is highly viscous, and the tin, which is very fluid, does not mix
and the contact surface between these two materials is perfectly flat. When it leaves the
bath of molten tin the glass has cooled down sufficiently to pass to an annealing chamber
called a lehr. Here it is cooled at controlled temperatures, until it is essentially at room

Defects in Float Glass

- Point Defects: Bubbles, Stones Knots
- Tin defects, roller marks
- Optical Defects

Disadvantages of Annealed Glass

- glass is extremely brittle, and cannot withstand tensile load
- forms dangerous sharp edges when broken
- Flat glass can be further processed to enhance its service performance or to form into
desired shape:
Tempered / Toughened Glass
Coated glass
Laminated glass
Insulated Glass Unit
Patterned Glass

Toughened Glass

Toughened glass is two or more times stronger than annealed glass. When broken, it
shatters into many small fragments which prevent major injuries. This type of glass is
intended for glass façades, sliding doors, building entrances, bath and shower enclosures and
other uses requiring superior strength and safety properties.
There are two different methods used to produce tempered glass:
- Heat treating: Where the annealed glass is subjected to a special heat-treatment in which
it is heated to about 680°C and afterwards cooled. If it is cooled rapidly, the glass is up
to four times stronger then annealed glass and its breaks into many small fragments
(fully-tempered). If it is cooled slowly, the glass is twice as strong as annealed glass and
the fragments of the broken glass are linear and more likely to remain in the frame
- Chemical Strengthening: The glass is covered by a chemical solution which produces a
higher mechanical resistance. Chemically-strengthened glass has similar properties to
thermal-treated glass. The product is not generally used for window glass, but more
commonly seen in industries where thin, strong glass is needed.

- The toughening process created residual compressive
stresses on the surface and equivalent tensile residual
stresses at the core.
- when the glass breaks, it shatters into small fragments that
remarkably reduces
the likelihood of injury to people as
there are no jagged edges or sharp

Toughened (Tempered) Glass Stress Measurement

- Destructive Method: Break the glass and measure the size of fragments
- Non-Destructive Method
Birefringence is proportional to the difference of principal stresses in the plane
perpendicular to the ray of light
Differential Refractometry
Polarimetric Mesurements

Spontaneous Breakage
In various situations fully-tempered glass may break for no reason. Many factors might cause
such spontaneous breakages, but the most common are nickel sulphide inclusions. Nickel
sulphide inclusion, also known as NiS, occurs during the manufacturing process for float
glass. In the glass batch, nickel-rich contaminants such as stainless steel might be present,
and then combine with sulphur form nickel sulphide inclusions. Glass manufacturers take
extraordinary steps to minimize the potential for nickel sulphide inclusions. Considering
that a large furnace may produce up to 600 tons of glass per day, total elimination of
contaminants is extremely difficult. In normal float glass production, nickel sulfide
inclusions formed at about 1 per 8 tonnes of raw glass, or 1 gram of nickel sulfide can
produce approximately 1000 inclusions of 0.15 mm diameter in glass panes.
When glass is heat-treated during successive stages, in order to obtain fully-tempered glass,
nickel sulphide inclusions change in size from what is known as a low-temperature (LT)
structure to a high-temperature (HT), crystalline structure. When cooled quickly the NiS
particle is unable to change back to its original form(LT). Over a certain period of time NiS
will slowly convert to the original form (LT) phase with an increase in volume of about 2 -
4%. Such increase of NiS will cause glass breakage, i.e., caused by volumetric expansion
(due to phase transformation) of nickel sulfide NiS at ambient temperature from alpha, a
high-temperature form, to beta phase, the low temperature form of NiS.
- NiS inclusions in general present no harm to annealed glass
- In toughened glass, If the inclusions are situated in the core of the tempered glass panes,
the expansion resulted from the phase transformation may induce additional tensile
stresses that superimpose on the residual tensile stresses at the core.
- When the combined stresses exceeded the strength of the glass, the glass may brake
spontaneously with no apparent reason.
- Chances of spontaneous breakage depends on
Type and nature of inclusions
Position of inclusions
Number of inclusions
Size of inclusions
(Critical size 0.03 mm diameter which is
far too small be detected visually.)

Measures to tackle NiS Problem

Heat-soak treatment (Heat Soak Test)

A destructive process to expedite the phase transformation of NiS during the manufacturing
stage to minimize chances of breakage after installation.
- Even after heat soaking, toughened glasses are liable to a few apparently spontaneous
incomplete conversion of nickel sulphide inclusions
Uneven temperature distribution in heat soak furnace;
Inconsistent heat soak operation;
Improper control of heat soaking parameters;
even with full conversion, inevitably some of these inclusions are too small to fail
in the heat soak, but may cause failures at unexpectedly low loads in service.
A. Kasper: “Although the HST is in use now since more than 30 years, it seems that its
scientific background is not yet fully understood. In the last years there were several trials to
shorten the test, e.g. by raising the temperature level (so-called short HST) or by trying to
stop the temperature during the cooling phase of the tempering process (so-called on-line
HST), but these modifications were not successful and, when tried out in practice, caused
epidemic failure of glass panes on the buildings concerned. The reason for these erroneous
technical developments is a basic lack of knowledge about the real behaviour on heating or
cooling of the glass surrounded NiS particulates”.

Use of Heat-Strengthened Glass to replace Toughened Glass

- Lower strength
- Need thicker pane
- NiS spontaneous fractures have been known to occur in HS glass, but the occurrence is
very much lower than in fully tempered.
- When fracture, the glass would not shatter into small fragments

Modification of the manufacturing process

Adding Zinc sulfate and nitrate to reduce the formation of NiS.

- Decomposition of NiS by adjusting oxidation-reduction reaction.
Static Fatigue

Apart from NiS, the other common cause of spontaneous breakage is due to the presence of
surface defects on the surface of glass
- due to moisture attack at pre-existing surface defects induced by:
- Poor edge grinding at the manufacturing process
- Mishandling / Accidental shock loading during transportation, storage and installation
- crack propagates progressively until it approaches the tensile zone

Water & Chemical Attack

Apart from static fatigue, water may also stain glass and affect its appearance:
Flat glass furnished for buildings is uniquely resistant to chemical attack and other
degradation. Substances and conditions which may cause many building materials to
deteriorate have no important effect on glass. The basic characteristics of glass are not
altered by the principle environmental factors of solar radiation, rain, or wind. In view of this,
it is surprising to find buildings with serious glass staining problems. On occasion, the
staining evolves into etching of the glass surface, requiring replacement of the glass.
Staining normally implies a chemical change or degradation of the glass surface.
Glass is inert to most acids and a wide variety of other chemicals. Only phosphoric and
hydrofluoric acid are harmful. Either of these in concentrated form will rapidly etch a glass
surface and are commonly used for this purpose. Among many other uses, strong solutions
of hydrofluoric acid are used for cleaning new concrete. There is a possibility that this acid
may be splashed onto the glass during the construction of the building. The staining can
become severe in an hour or less. The recorded cases of this occurring are rare, however.
Alkaline materials, unlike acids, will attack glass surfaces to varying degrees. In
concentrated forms, etching of glass surfaces can occur very rapidly, within a few hours in
some cases. Diluted alkaline solutions are often used as glass cleaners and attack on the
glass surface is extremely slow. However, even though the concentration may be low, the
glass surface should always be thoroughly rinsed after cleaning to avoid staining.
Some of the more common alkaline solutions are ammonia, trisodium phosphate (used in
diluted form as a commercial glass cleaner), most cleaners and detergents and, run-off from
construction materials such as concrete, mortar, plaster, and gravel.
Probably the most common cause of staining after the glass is installed is from the run-off of
rain from unsealed concrete panels or mortar joints. The resulting alkaline solution can be
concentrated and cause serious etching in a few days. Another common cause is the use of a
concentrated liquid cleaner as a lubricant for gasket-glazed installations. In this case, even
though the glass is rinsed, some cleaner is trapped between the gasket and the glass. This
will seep out onto the glass over a period of time and a serious attack of the glass surface may
result. Only lubricants recommended by the gasket manufacturer should be used.

Glass Staining in Storage or Shipment

Staining of glass in storage or shipment is almost always caused by an alkaline attack
triggered by the presence of water. Special conditions often occur when glass is packed close
together in crates or racks. These conditions do not exist for glass in practical uses, such as in
windows, curtain walls, and automobiles.
For glass in storage, conditions are markedly different. Water may collect between the panes
of glass. This can be from a leaky pipe or a roof for glass stored indoors and from rain, snow,
or ground water for glass stored outdoors. Most often, however, it is caused by condensation
of water vapor on the glass. This is possible whenever the glass temperature is below the dew
point of the surrounding air. For glass stored outdoors or in an unheated warehouse, this is
very likely to occur.
The glass temperature will change more slowly than the air temperature because of the bulk
and consequent temperature lag of the glass. A crate of glass stored all night at a cool
temperature may be close to the air temperature early in the morning. The air temperature and
moisture vapor content often increase rapidly after sunrise. The glass will remain at a much
lower temperature for a number of hours. Under these conditions, condensation of water
vapor is likely. This water is trapped and usually cannot drain away. It evaporates slowly and
often will only partially evaporate during a 24-hour period. If the same temperature cycle
reoccurs a number of times, the glass surface may remain wet for a number of weeks or
months. As a portion of the water evaporates, the alkaline solution becomes more and more
concentrated. It will almost always become sufficiently concentrated to etch the glass.

Severity of Glass Staining

During the first stage of staining a transparent white film will appear on the glass. Under
some lighting conditions, this is observable on installed glass which has not been washed in
some time and almost always uniformly covers the entire glass surface. Visually, it cannot be
readily separated from surface contamination from cigarette smoke, atmospheric dust and
other materials.
The second stage of staining appears as an iridescence or discoloration of the glass surface
and has the appearance of an oil film. This is multi-colored with a very irregular pattern. It is
readily observable when daylight or other light sources are viewed by reflection from the
glass surface.
The final stage of staining produces an irregular translucent white discoloration which is
readily discernible under most lighting conditions. It can reach the stage where objects cannot
be clearly distinguished through the glass.
Erosion or Mechanical Scratching
Coated glass is also vulnerable to erosion or mechanical scratching:
- By air borne particles
- Accidental or Vandalism
- Use of abrasive cleaning agent

Coated Glass

Ordinary float glass can be coated to achieve different properties:

- Pyrolitic (On-Line): in this process, semi-conducted metal oxides are directly applied to
the glass during the float glass production while the glass is still hot in the annealing lehr.
These are hard coatings which are relatively harmful to the environment.
- Vacuum (magnetron) Process (off-line):in this process one or more coats of metal oxide
are applied under a vacuum to finished glass. The coatings applied by this technique are
soft and must be protected against external influences and are therefore used for the
interior side of glass panes.
There are some other techniques for the OFF-LINE coating:
- Immersion Process
- Chemical Process
- Foil
For coated glass, the coating on the glass may be more susceptible to chemical attack:
- Nature of coating (soft or hard)
- Location of coating (outside, inside, between panes)

Low Emissivity Coating

The use of a low emissivity (Low E) coating on the glass provides the possibility of reducing
the long wave radiation exchange between the panes. In air spaces with uncoated surfaces,
the long wave radiation exchange between those enclosing glass surfaces is high, amounting
to about 60% of the total heat exchange across the space.
With one of the glass surfaces having a coating with emissivity less than 0.2 (compared with
0.84 for the uncoated glass surface), the radiation exchange is reduced by approximately 75%
and consequently the U value is reduced. The term "Low E" is now generally taken to refer to
coatings with an emissivity less than 0.2. At ambient temperatures, the long wave radiation
lies between 5,000 - 50,000nm where the reflection of Low E coating is high - extending
beyond the wavelength coordinate.
The higher insulating effect (lower U value) provide by a Low E coating in a double glazed
unit is due to the high reflectance of long wavelength radiation at ambient temperatures.
Emissivity and reflectance in the far infrared are related by Kirchhoff's law.
The development of hard low emissivity coatings widens the possibility of including coated
monolithic glazing in secondary frames applied to existing windows; the earlier, softer low
emissivity coatings were restricted to protected use in sealed glazed units only. Metallic
surfaces, including some metallic oxides, provide low emissivity.
Water on the coated surface of the glass, perhaps as a result of condensation, will cancel out
the effect of the Low E coating because of the high emissivity of water.
The present technology of on-line, hard Low E coatings can provide slightly higher solar heat
transmission than that exhibited by soft coatings, giving improvements to passive solar gain
applications. In cold climates the higher temperature of the inner glass surface of double
glazed units using Low E coatings diminishes the effect of colder long wave radiation
causing discomfort near the window.

Self-Cleaning glass
Self-cleaning glass is an ordinary float glass with a special photocatalytic coating. It is made
by chemically bonding and integrating a microscopically-thin surface layer to the exterior
surface of clear glass. The integrated coating reacts to the sun’s ultraviolet rays to gradually
and continuously break down organic dirt through what is called a photocatalytic effect. In
other words photocatalytic means that the active integrated coating on the outside of the glass
absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This causes a reaction on the surface which breaks down
dirt and loosens it from the glass. This type of glass also has hydrophilic properties, meaning
that rain flows down the pane as a sheet, washing away the dirt instead of, as with normal
glasses, leaving the dirt behind. As a result of these two effects, the special self-cleaning
coating keeps the glass cleaner for a longer period than with normal glass in applications
where it is exposed to the rain.

Strength of Glass

In theory, glass is very strong - much stronger than many metals.

In practice, Glass has very high compressive strength but behaves as a brittle substance (low
fracture toughness) with a tensile strength only 0.4 per cent of its theoretical value.
- it is severely weakened by fine cracks caused by abrasions through handling and
corrosion by water vapour
- Can be easily damaged by a point load
Heat strengthened and tempered glass in general possesses better fracture toughness, but
there exists weak points in these glasses.
The actual load that a glass component could withstand in real service situation is affected
- Condition of the glass (amount of pre-existing flaws, edge quality, …)
- Nature of load (impulsive/point or distributed? …)
- Support frame & mounting
- Thermal differential (indoor and outdoor / daily change in temperature …)

Thermal Cracking
All type of glasses are susceptible to thermal cracking
- Lack of allowance for thermal expansion
- Requires proper supports with allowances for expansion

Structural/Shape Stability of Glass

Can a glass pane or component retain its shape after breakage?
- Nature of attack
- Type of support frame and mounting
- Presence of additional load (e.g. Wind loading)
- Type of glass
- Use of Laminated Glass

Laminated Glass

Laminating procedure:
- pre-press stage: the laminate is sandwiched between two plates of glass panes and
- Autoclaving: the pre-pressed panes are autoclaved under pressure at an elevated
- Once sealed together, the glass "sandwich" behaves as a single unit and looks like normal
glass. Annealed, heat strengthened or tempered glass can be used to produce laminated
- Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayers are commonly used for glass lamination
The toughness and resiliency of laminated glass makes it an excellent safety glazing. If the
glass is broken, fragments will adhere to the PVB, reducing the risk of personal injury and
property damage
The standard two-ply construction provides resistance to penetration when subjected to
attempted force entry. In multi-ply configurations, laminated glass can even resist bullets,
heavy objects, or small explosions. In most cases, it takes many blows, all in the same spot, to
penetrate the glass.
The shear damping performance of the PVB makes laminated glass an effective sound
control product.
The PVB in laminated glass helps reduce solar energy transmittance to reduce cooling loads.
The ultraviolet (UV) filtering performance of the plastic interlayer helps protect valuable
furnishings, displays or merchandise from the fading effects of UV radiation.

Common Problems:


The adhesion between the glass and the interlayer was affected by some means

PVB will readily absorb & vaporize water

- during transportation with exposed glass edges or Storage in warehouses without

humidity control
- Lowered the adhesive bond strength between the PVB interlayer and the glass

Chemical Damage to PVB laminate:

- Laminate attacked by chemicals, e.g. sealant, this also affects adhesiveness of the

thermal stresses
- Difference in indoor/outdoor temperature resulting in significant differential movement of
the glass panes
- Most pronounce when thickness of indoor/outdoor panes differ significantly (thermal

trapped air

- excess air trapped in laminate during production may expand and affect the adhesion of

Residual stresses in laminate

Uneven compression of laminate during the lamination process induced localized residual