CROSS Safety Report
Dangerous defects in curtain wall glazing
This report concerns a 5m high vertical glazing system in which the fixings for a panel failed after only four years because of a lack of co-ordination between designers and contractors.
Key Learning Outcomes
For the construction team:
- Any alterations to structural components and fixing methods should be approved by the design engineer prior to any changes being implemented on site
- Be aware that all elements of cladding and glazing systems present a significant risk to the public and require proper design and installation by qualified experienced practitioners
- The design and installation of glazing systems should be given the same degree of attention as the primary structure during both design and construction to improve safety, reliability and longevity
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This report concerns a 5m high vertical glazing system in which the fixings for a panel failed after only four years. The architectural design was for there to be full-height fins pinned at top and bottom to support the panels. There was however no structural design, and a decision was taken on site to change the full height fins to half height, although it transpired that there was confusion over who had responsibility for the amendment. In the event the pinned connection at head level, consisting of spider plates and restraint steelwork, worked loose and the glazing failed.
Remedial works consisted of reverting to the original architectural design by strengthening the fins and extending them to full height additional steel framing top and bottom.
The cause of the problem, says the reporter, was that no structural design was carried out when it was decided to alter the fins, and this was not spotted. There was a gap between the processes used by the Principal Contractor and the Lead Design Organisation, coupled with insufficient checking of subcontract designs including fabrication drawings.
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