As with all materials, the design of structural glass elements requires a good understanding of how the material behaves when placed under load. Glass is a very strong material, but also extremely brittle. This key attribute causes it to fail suddenly as it cannot yield, unlike more traditional materials such as steel and timber. This fact presents unique challenges to structural engineers when designing structural elements to be made from glass.
This technical guidance note is an introduction to glass as a structural material. It aims to describe glass in terms of its properties, how it reacts when subjected to various forces and the methods currently being explored and adopted by structural engineers when designing structural glass elements. Much of the guidance written here reflects what is provided in the recently published Institution guide: Structural use of glass in buildings: second edition