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Question from Readers: When can I use glass in a suspended cab ceiling?

Lou Blaiotta on Monday, May 26, 2014 at 12:00:00 am

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Laminated Glass

Here I am standing in front of a clear glass side panel that has been etched with a map of the US and our Columbia Elevator information.  Notice that the glass panel is held within a frame. 

The short answer is – you can use laminated glass so long as it is retained inside a frame.  The full answer is more complex. 

It’s a matter of choice whether an architect designs an elevator cab with a suspended ceiling or some other type of material such as tempered glass.  Although architects like to use glass these days, we, as manufacturers, are not enamored with using glass.   No matter what type of glass is installed, it is breakable.   It is believed that tempered glass won’t break, and it is true that if you were to pound on it with a hammer it may not break.  But there is a way for the glass to shatter.

To illustrate, consider the rotating doors you see at the entrances of hotels or large office buildings.  Those doors are made of one inch tempered glass.  They will take force from the front surfaces but if there were a way to hit one of those doors on the edge, it would shatter into one-inch cubes.  The same thing could happen if someone were to pry a tempered glass suspended ceiling on its side with a screwdriver or some other tool.  It would shower into cubes of glass.   Laminated glass may maintain its shards in place but it can still be a safety problem and could get into a customer’s eye, skin or hair.  As we live in a litigious environment, we recommend that architects stay away from any type of overhead glass. 

To gain a glass effect on walls, we can use laminated glass, and it must be retained inside a frame.   Automobile glass is two sheets of glass with plastic sheeting in the middle; it is the most appropriate glass.  Still, if this is used in elevator cabs, it must be retained in a frame.  Clear glass in a frame can even be chemically etched into a design like a map of the US.  Those treatments are fine, but the code is clear: all glass no matter if it is clear or back-painted or backed with steel or wood, it has to be in a frame. 

We also find that a material known as Translucent Lexan, which can come in clear or white-milk-colored sheeting, makes for a viable alternative.  It is safe and fairly economical.  The material can withstand high impact when secured in a frame and it allows for a maximum transmission of lighting. 

Of course, suspended ceilings do not have to be made of glass at all.  Decorative and architectural choices include wood or steel and other materials. 

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