Structural capacity of freestanding glass balustrades

Goosen, Alberto (2007-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Civil Engineering)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


The introduction of toughened glass into the construction industry has had several significant consequences. For the first time, glass panels can be used without continuous edge supports, and as a result can be used as load-bearing element. An excellent and very common example of the use of glass as structural element is a freestanding glass balustrade. During an undergraduate investigation, a number of impact tests were performed on continuous supported freestanding glass balustrade panels at the University of Stellenbosch [6]. It was observed that none of the balustrade panels complied with the guidelines for impact loading stipulated in the SABS [7] loading standards. The failure to meet the loading requirements highlighted the need to investigate the design of glass balustrades. This thesis describes the investigation undertaken to determine the static- and dynamic loading capacity of freestanding glass balustrades. Following a review of South African and international design standards, the static- and dynamic material properties of toughened glass was established by means of a laboratory test series. The laboratory test series consisted of both a destructive laboratory test series and finite element analysis, the outcome of which determined the static- and dynamic material properties of toughened glass. The series also included the influence of different connection types. A second phase employed the identified material properties of toughened glass to determine the loading capacity of full-scale balustrades. Using finite elements each balustrade set-up was loaded as required by the relevant South African loading standards. The finite element analyses identified which balustrade set-ups could resist the required imposed loads. Finally, a second laboratory test series was undertaken, the aim of which was to verify the finite element results. The successful resistance of the tested balustrade set-ups confirmed the finite element model. Recommendation to the existing design- and loading standards are made based on the results of the thesis.

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