AS1288-2006 Review: The New Standard in Glass

Standards Australia has finally released the new Australian Standard AS1288-2006 – Glass in buildings which replaces “AS1288-1994 – Glass in buildings”.

As it has been twelve years between editions it seems appropriate to analyse the impact this may have on the glass and glazing industry.

With the increasing availability of quality safety glass products entering the market it was inevitable that the old standard was in desperate need of a revamp.

Some may question whether the Australian Standards committee have gone far enough with the current code but pressure from affiliated industries and bodies may have played a part in preventing more changes to the old standard.

The logical progression is to see all glass products in buildings move to some form of safety glass and here we will examine the past, present and future of glass in buildings.

AS1288-2006: Key features

Although there have been many changes to AS1288, here we will focus on the key features relating to the human impact safety requirements of the code.

Doors & side panels (AS1288-2006 Section 5 – 5.2 & 5.3)

Until the release of AS1288-2006 it was legal to use standard annealed glass in doors and side panels next to doors in varying thickness depending on the square metres of each panel. Now all panels must be Grade A Safety Glass in this situation, however there is a clause that allows some smaller sizes to be annealed glass.

The most interesting aspect of this exemption is that door panels up to the size 800mm x 300mm are permitted in 5mm annealed glass. Injuries and in some cases death are the result of human impact with annealed glass, undoubtedly this anomaly will be addressed in the future editions of the code.

Low-level glazing (AS1288-2006 Section 5 – 5.5)

Previously under AS1288-1994 low-level panels were permitted up to a staggering 2.0 square metres in 5mm annealed glass, however the new standard still allows 5mm annealed glass up to 1.2 square metres.

For example, a panel measuring 1200mm x 1000mm glazed equal to floor level and situated in a residential property can be 5mm annealed glass. If a child riding a bicycle or even just playing creates an impact strong enough to break this glass the consequences could be catastrophic.

All other low-level panels above the 1.2 square metre limit and glazed within 500mm from the floor or ground must be Grade A Safety Glass.

Bathroom, ensuite and spa rooms (AS1288-2006 Section 5 – 5.8)

This section of AS1288-2006 could be an indication of what is to come with future editions of this Australia Standard.

All glazing within 2000mm above floor level in bathrooms, ensuites, and rooms or enclosures containing spa pools must be Grade A or Grade B Safety Glass.

Annealed mirror panels are allowed only when vinyl backed or adhered to a solid surface to ensure if broken the glass will remain in position.

Schools, early childcare centres, aged care building and retirement villages and nursing homes (AS1288-2006 Section 5 – 5.10)

Due to the high risk nature of these premises, AS1288-1994 always ensured Grade A Safety Glass was used in areas likely to be subject to human impact. AS1288-2006 now specifies that glass panels within 1000mm of floor level situated in schools and childcare facilities and within 1500mm for aged care, retirement villages and nursing homes must be Grade A Safety Glass.

Although this is beyond the general requirements of the code, annealed glass is permitted above these height restrictions. Keeping in mind that Grade A Safety Glass is to be used in bathrooms and the like up to 2000mm (Section 5 – 5.8), one would think that the chance of children climbing above 1000mm and impacting with these panels is a possibility.

Balustrades (AS1288-2006 Section 7)

Glass balustrades have been somewhat of a controversial subject in the glass and glazing industry and consequently have prompted the Australian Standards committee to include a complete new section dedicated to this classification.

The installation of frameless balustrades have become extraordinarily popular over the last decade, including the advent of cantilevered panels where toughened glass is only supported by the bottom edge which is set into a concrete slab or frame.

There are countless properties including high rise apartments located throughout Australian cities where this technique is used. If a panel were to fail due to human impact or some other means, the nature of toughened glass would see the whole panel fracture into minute pieces leaving an open path to serious injury or even death.

The new standard has addressed some of the safety issues associated with this type of glazing by the introduction an interlinking handrail to be installed on all structural balustrades protecting a difference in level equal or greater than 1000mm.

Toughened glass is permitted as infill panels situated in balustrades protecting any difference in level. Keeping in mind the breaking characteristics of this type of glass it’s fair to say that a laminated form of safety glass will be the future requirements for this application.

AS1288-2006: Summary

The transformation of such an important document as an Australian Standard is an enormous task in itself. Part of the publishing process involves issuing a draft copy of the standard for public and industry comment, however this practice may need some revision to ensure future editions reflect what is required to achieve a flawless AS1288.

This is only a snapshot of some of the areas of AS1288-2006 that may affect the Australian community and is in no way a guide or version of the Australian Standard. The current edition is an improvement on its predecessor and covers sections that needed necessary revision, however in this age of litigation the standard may see further changes in the not to distant future.