Glass Fin Walls in Focus
Point-supported structural glass systems can create some of the most unique structures and transparent facades. There are many ways we achieve this level of transparency, which we’ve written about before, but if you’ve been following our social media or had a glance at our extensive portfolio on our website, you will notice that glass fin walls are a very popular choice for point-supported systems.
The trend for buildings to have more transparency has been taking precedence in metropolitan areas over the past few decades. Gone are the days of highly-reflective glass, strip windows, and punched openings for high-end commercial facades… at least for now. This has fueled designers’ interests to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with lighter support structures, taller unsupported facades, and less hardware/connection points. One of these avenues for progressive design is the resurgence of the structural glass fin wall, which is a system that uses vertical, tempered glass mullions as a structural support. Cost effective and stylish, these systems are perfect for projects of any size, whether it’s a simple store-front facade, or a five to six story, 60 foot tall grand lobby.
First introduced over 40 years ago by Pilkington, Pilkington Planar™ point-supported glass fin walls are still one of the most utilized methods of creating highly transparent facades. Glass mullions (fins) form the structural back-up system, which is usually hung from the structure above. Countersunk point-supported fittings, with bolt heads the size of a quarter, are attached to the vertical fins using Pilkington Planar™ custom hardware. Facade glass joints are fully siliconed together to create a weathertight system allowing for proper system movement. The combined weight of the facade and fins are hung from above and connected at top and bottom back to the structure for transfer of all loads. In this way, these facades can reach great heights without the concern for any progressive collapse if a lower fin or face glass lite had been been broken.
We don’t always think of glass as a structural element, but Pilkington Planar™ system glass fin walls are rigorously tested to ensure they stand up to the toughest standards. Dynamic water, air, and seismic testing are all part of the best practice industry assessment standards these systems have been tested for. Beyond industry standards, the system has also been tested for Fail Safe Redundancy. These internal and third-party tests further stress these systems with wind pressure cycling after breakage of lower lites of face glass and fins, in order to prove that the overall structural integrity of the glass wall isn’t compromised should one fin or lite fail. Every project has its own unique set of construction details that must be taken into account. While there is a possibility to base load fins to the ground up to 32 feet, we will only engineer/supply systems that are suspended from above where there is the potential for high seismic activity to prevent any catastrophic system failure.
Strength, durability, and the beauty of a transparent facade are at the core of what makes glass fin walls such a popular point-supported structural glazing system option in the market today. Unmatched in its ability to blur the line between the inside and outside, structurally sound glass fins are the perfect example of form and function. If you are thinking of utilizing a point-supported system with glass fins on your next project, contact us and we will help you get started.
W&W Glass LLC is a family owned business with a 70-year history in the metal and glass industry, one of the largest metal and glass companies in the New York metropolitan area and the largest supplier of structural glass systems in the country. We have over two decades of experience in the design and installation of various building enclosure systems, including stick-built curtain walls, pre-glazed unitized curtain walls, Pilkington Planar™ structural glass facades, and custom metal and glass enclosure systems. We install all of our work with our own dedicated union labor force. W&W is consistently the largest employer of glaziers in the NY metropolitan area.
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