To the Extreme

A lot can change in a decade. Businesses come and go. New products are introduced, old ones are phased out. Buildings get taller and glass gets bigger. And some of the feats we’ve seen over the past ten years in the glass industry aren’t for the faint of heart.

Can you believe it’s been ten years since the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened? Giroux Glass was the contract glazier. The horizontal cantilever bridge extends over the west side of the Grand Canyon in Arizona in a curved U-shape, providing views of the canyon below. The Grand Canyon Skywalk glass floor is designed to hold the weight of up to 120 people, and handle winds up to 100 miles per hour.

This was one of the first projects, at least that I recall, that took glass to such extremes. It was one thing to walk on glass floors and stairs inside a building. This project took glass 70 feet out past the canyon’s edge, placing you 4,000 feet above the Colorado River.

According to information from Giroux Glass, the Skywalk has 46 custom-built glass panels that are almost 3 inches thick and weigh a total of 83,000 pounds. They contain a thin removable layer for maintenance purposes that make it much easier to replace when scratched. The glass walls surrounding the walkway stand 5- to 7-feet high. This is protect to the visitors while also providing unobstructed views.

The two-inch thick glass decking is approximately 10 feet wide and 70 feet deep, and is made of a multilayer glass construction including three SentryGlas® structural interlayers and four layers of Saint-Gobain Diamant glass.

In the years since the Skywalk was completed, there’s been The Ledge at the Willis Tower in Chicago, a glass floor at the Eiffel Tower and that super scary looking (no way I would cross it) bridge in China, just to name a few. We’ve also seen plans for an extreme glass bottom swimming pool.

Glass innovations continue to reach new heights—literally. These are just some of them, all made possible by the advances in structural glass technologies. What will be the next big thing? I, for one, am excited to find out.