Design and Acceptance of Glass Constructions

The fascination about glass as a modern building material is motivated by the richness of its different characteristics. Glass exhibits a multitude of different characteristics, such as transparency, mirroring, coloring, etc. and also combines them.
In architecture, glass is used to indicate progressiveness, wealth and, first and foremost, transparency.
The presented paper describes glass constructions which are used to prevent people from falling – like parapets, glazed walls and facades – and glass floors. These are often used in high frequented places e.g. in public and office buildings, shopping centres.
The problems which will be discussed in the paper are on the one hand: Are these high transparency glass constructions functional in this kind of buildings and in public space? And on the other hand: How to design them?
First we consider the possibilities in design and the technical specifications like types, details, dimensioning and standards. Furthermore we try to analyze the acceptance of and the users` exposure to this transparent material, depending on its application.
The behaviour of the users with respect to glass elements was observed via hidden cameras and questionnaires. They were asked about their experiences and their fears with regard to fully glazed balustrades, walls and floors.

The aim of the questionnaires was to examine the acceptance of glazed structures in public and office buildings by asking about their utilization and about appropriate safety barriers.

The analysis of the questionnaires showed that the performance of structural glass is still widely unknown and the characteristics ascribed to the material are still those of traditional glass. In general the acceptance of glass used in modern architecture is higher when the material is used as a vertical constructive element as compared to a lower acceptance regarding an application as passable area.

Abstract/Lead speaker lecture at IABSE Symposium on Responding to Tomorrow’s Challenges in Structural Engineering; September 2006/Budapest; Text/Lecturer: Fabian Dembski; Co-authors: Oliver Englhardt; Richard Hauck