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Shanghai casts stone at glass houses over safety

(China Daily)

09:52, October 24, 2011

SHANGHAI - The city will ban glass curtain walls at new schools, hospitals and residential buildings under a new draft of the Shanghai Glass Curtain Wall Construction Management Regulation, which is aimed at addressing safety concerns.

The walls, seen by many as a symbol of modern architecture, will also be restricted in the city's historic and scenic areas.

Though buildings with glass curtain walls are often found in financial or central business districts, Rao Rong, a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Architecture, said it's a relief to see limits on their use.

"The safety of glass curtain walls is directly related to the engineering design of the building, the material quality of the glass, and the skill used in its installation and maintenance. Any negligence in the details might lead to an accident," said Rao.

"Technically speaking, the glass curtain wall is a relatively mature technology as it was introduced to China in the 1980s, but many human factors such as the lack of maintenance may contribute to accidents causing injury or damage," she said.

The draft also mandates safety inspections every four years.

A more comprehensive investigation involving inspections of glass curtain walls, aluminum alloy extrusions, steel and more, is required for class-clad buildings older than eight years.

"Repair and maintenance are not cheap," said Yu Hui, a professor at the School of Architecture and Fine Arts at Dalian University of Technology. "For some glass high up in the air, checking each square meter costs several hundred yuan."

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