Wire mesh glass (aka Georgian Wired Glass) has been a fixture Canadian construction industry for decades, but many are calling for its permanent retirement.

“Georgian wire was created to add safety and security to a glassed area, but years of study and reported accidents with the material are showing that is not the case,” affirms Marco Ferrazzo, Manager with Artistic Skylights.

Invented by Frank Shuman in 1982, Georgian Wired Glass is the name given to glass embedded with wire meshing. The design is meant to make it harder to shatter or break, while also serving as a fire protection glazing material. Traditionally, Georgian Wired Glass has been used in schools, hospitals, and other commercial or institutional buildings where fire-rated glass is required.

The dangers of Georgian Wired Glass

The issue with this glass is that the wire meshing has been shown to actually make the glass weaker, even though it shares the same thickness and heat-withstanding properties as the alternatives. More concerning still, however, is the fact that Georgian Wired Glass can shatter in a far more dangerous way than regular glass. Upon impact, sharp fragments of glass can get caught up in the wire meshing, lacerating anything (or anyone) going through it.

“The short story is that this material is weaker than the alternatives, tough to work with, and poses significant risks when damaged,” adds Ferrazzo, who saw the risks of using this style of glass up close when a colleague’s ability to walk was critically damaged after breaking through the material.

The hazards of Georgian Wired Glass are well documented. In 2016, for example, Global News reported that wired glass injures as many as one child a day in Canadian schools.

Promisingly, countries are beginning to respond to these risks by limiting or outright banning its use.

Push from construction industry

In 2006, the US International Building Code effectively banned the material from use; and in 2017, Canadian General Standards Board removed the material from its national building standards (CAN/CGSB 12.11-1990). However, given that Canadian standards are voluntary, there has been a consistent push among the construction community to ban the material altogether in a more official means. And while the National Building Code of Canada 2020 goes so far as to remove wire mesh glass from projects by redefining “safety glazing” in human-occupied locations, some argue the material should be eliminated altogether.

“There have been some positive changes to building codes that have discouraged or banned the use of Georgian Wired Glass, but there are a lot of people like myself who believe the material should not be out there in the first place,” adds Ferrazzo.

Tempered and laminated glass are at the new normal for the construction industry. Skylights with laminated glass are designed to mitigate outdoor sounds while letting the natural light in. Laminated glass skylights can play a key role in boosting health and occupant moods while turning down the volume on excess noise.

Marco Ferrazzo is a Manager with Artistic Skylights. Learn more about the latest skylight trends and issues, and discover the benefits of adding skylights to your home or office renovation, by visiting Artistic Skylights.

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