Reinforced glass beams lecture for Verre 2006 Dr ir. F. A. Veer

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Reinforced glass beams lecture for Verre 2006

  • F.A. Veer

Glass in architecture

  • Glass has played an important role in architecture as the material that opens up a building to light.

  • An important example are the great rose windows of the medieval cathedrals.

Glass in architecture

  • Although these windows are very dramatic they need extensive supporting masonry as they weaken the structure.

Glass in architecture

  • Although glass appeared to take a leading role it was still only a material that separated the interior and exterior.

  • It was only some twenty years ago that glass started to be used in a limited structural role.

Glass in architecture

  • This marks a transition from non-structural to limited structural use of glass.

  • This also raised the important question:

    • How far can we go in using
    • glass as a structural material ?

Glass as a structural material

  • It also raises the question of what loads we can put on glass in :

    • Tension
    • Bending
    • Compression
    • Bending will be the focus of this presentation

Glass beams

  • Monolithic annealed float glass

  • Tempered float glass

  • PVB laminated tempered float glass

  • Sentry glass laminated tempered float glass

  • Cast resin laminated tempered glass

Failure behaviour

Stainless steel reinforcement

  • In 1995 the ZAPPI research program started.

  • Goals was to develop safe transparent components for a transparent building of 20×20×20 meters.

  • This means beams of large span, column’s etc. as well as the technology to put it together.

Further improvement

  • Although the 2004 result showed large and safe beams can be made research is continuing in several directions.

  • This with the following aims :

Further improvement

    • how to increase the ease of manufacture
    • what is the required volume of reinforcement
    • what is the optimum configuration for the reinforcement
    • - what is the optimum configuration for the glass
    • What is the best adhesive for the reinforcement
    • What is the maximum length that can be attained

Ease of manufacture

Required volume of reinforcement

Reinforcement configuration

Adhesive type

configuration for the glass

configuration for the glass

maximum length


  • The results so far show that reinforced glass beams :

    • can exceed the 6 meter length limitation imposed by the standard glass panel size
    • can have a build in structural safety mechanism which shows considerable deformation after initial cracking and thus cannot collapse spontaneously
    • can in theory be used as structural member of the main load bearing construction
    • have a length limit of about 20 m
    • can result in innovative architectural solutions


  • The main obstacles to introduction of reinforced glass beams are:

    • the lack of an adequate knowledge base on which to design the components
    • the problem in joining the glass components together
    • the lack of knowledge about these components at the architecture and engineering level
    • the lack of clearly applicable building codes for the regulatory body
    • the need for specialised staff and expertise for the contractor

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