UrbanToronto spoke late last week with Tom Dutton, Senior Vice President at The Daniels Coprporation, about the balcony glass issue at Festival Tower.

Q: How many pieces have broken at Festival Tower?

A: About 5 occurrences.

Q: What procedures are you following to find out what exactly has gone on?

A: The bad part about having more balconies fail – is that you have more balconies failing. The good part about it is that every time you have another one, you have another opportunity to get more information and you are better prepared to analyze things more quickly. It gives you more information to work with.

In the instances where you’ve had these things break, there’s only a small percentage of the glass that’s coming out and going down to the street. It’s contained more to the upper one third of the panel that actually falls out. The rest of the glass stays in place because of the way the balconies have been designed. We have had our engineers come every time we have had an occurrence and take away the glass to their lab. They have also had pieces to test which were left over from the job. We are still waiting for their final recommendations. We still don’t know if this is some kind of defect in the glass that wasn’t detectable, or if it’s something to do with impact - maybe something is hitting the glass that we’re not aware of - hard to pinpoint that one.

Q: People have been speculating that a hotter than normal summer might have caused some of the glass to break.

A: We had one piece that was in contact with the balcony railing in a way where it was expanding quicker than the glass, maybe putting pressure on the glass, but since then we have had 2 or 3 where the metal has not been touching the glass. Heat could have been the cause of that first one, so there could be different factors at play here.

Our primary concerns have been to protect people down at ground level and on their balconies, so we have put scaffolding up along the street, and we have commenced a new programme of containing the balconies within a fabric product that is going to stop anything falling down at all. The containment will give us a little bit of breathing room while we get to the bottom of this and determine what the solution should be, and allow us to feel more secure about protecting people.

Balconies at Festival Tower contained by a fabric net, image by Hawc

Balconies at Festival Tower contained by a fabric net, image by Hawc

It’s not unusual to have breaking glass in our industry, over the years we’ve had glass fail, it’s a known thing that if you put up glass on the exterior of a building you’ll have a certain quantity of breakage from time to time. What’s different now though is that we’re see a much higher incidence of this happening. It’s a big concern.

Q; No developer wants to be associated with balconies failing in their buildings.

A:  There has been a tendency for people to jump to the conclusion that there is a huge epidemic industry-wide, that everybody is cutting corners, that the crazy developers are building everything so cheaply now, “No wonder they’re having problems”.

The balcony railing system at Festival Tower is a very sophisticated design. We spared no expense in creating that look. It’s a 12 millimetre thick glass [editor: double the thickness of what failed at Murano], it has the ceramic frit on the exterior which was a huge premium we paid in order to have that look. It’s not like we saved a lot of money and ended up with an inferior product. Everything we have done our engineers have gone over quite thoroughly and have assured us that everything is in accordance with all applicable codes and standards, it’s all been put together properly, and there are no workmanship problems or issues. It’s a real mystery still at this time as to what is causing this.

Q: We will look forward to the results when you get them.

A: We want to be as open as we can be, telling people what we know at the time. We will be happy to share that with other building and condo owners too; anyone who lives in a high-rise with glass balcony railings is wondering about this.

Related Companies:  Isotherm Engineering Ltd., Jablonsky, Ast and Partners, Kirkor Architects Planners, KPMB Architects, Mike Niven Interior Design, Montana Steele, NAK Design Strategies, tcgpr (The Communications Group), The Daniels Corporation