As Glass Floors and Stairs Increase in Popularity, so Does Design and Safety Awareness

While vertical installations may be the most common glass applications, new developments and innovations have helped bring glass flooring and stair treads into the design mainstream. As a walking surface, glass is often found in high-end residential, hospitality and commercial settings. Glass floors can also be used to show something below the floor. In a corporate setting, for example, placing different products or materials manufactured by the company below the glass can help create a branding or corporate identity.According to Ian Patlin with Paragon Architectural Products in Scottsdale, Ariz., technology advancements and developments are the driving factors behind the increased use of these systems.

“Glass designers and engineers now have various software options to analyze the structural and mechanical properties of a glazing system,” he says. “On the material side, new products have also enabled glass engineers to create more transparent systems due to the added structural values these materials can handle.”

But as attractive as the glass flooring or stair application may be, pedestrian safety is critical. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires a minimum slip-resistance of 0.50, expressed as a static coefficient of friction. Processes designed to roughen the top surface of the glass to provide slip resistance include sandblasting, acid-etching, ceramic frit and embossing.

There are a number of ASTM test methods that measure slip resistance. These include:
· F 609 – Standard Test Method for Static Slip Resistance of Footwear, Sole, Heel, or Related Materials by Horizontal Pull Slipmeter (HPS);
· F 1677 – Standard Test Method for Using a Portable Inclinable Articulated Strut Tester (PIAST);
· F 1679 – Standard Test Method for Using a Variable Incidence Tribometer (VIT); and
· D 2047 – Standard Test Method for Static Coefficient of Friction of Polish-Coated Flooring Surfaces as Measured by the James Machine.
Likewise, modesty can become an issue when glass floors are found on upper levels. If this is an issue, it may be necessary to incorporate a ceramic enamel finish or a decorated or translucent interlayer in the glass to create opacity from below.

As a means to provide information about designing, specifying and installing glass floors and stair treads, the Glass Association of North America (GANA) has published a glass informational bulletin on the subject. (CLICK HERE to doenload a copy.)

You can also read more about glass flooring and stair treads in the upcoming August/September/October issue of Decorative Glass magazine.