Austin developer Stratus Properties is removing nearly 1,000 glass balcony panels from the city’s new W Hotel building after back-to-back days of falling glass forced the hotel’s temporary closure.
Three glass panels fell from the south-facing side of the building Tuesday, following an incident in which three panels fell from the upper floors of the 37-story building the day before, the Associated Press reports. This comes less than three weeks after two glass panels fell from the building into the pool area, causing minor injuries to four people, including a couple who filed a lawsuit against the hotel, according to the AP.
“A thorough investigation of this incident continues with numerous engineers and experts to ensure this work is done as safely as possible,” said Stratus CEO Beau Anderson in a statement Wednesday evening. The announcement also included the names of the architect, contractor, design, and engineering firms that worked on the project.
The balcony railing system designer, fabricator, and installer was listed in the release as US Railing, a Tampa, Fla.–based subsidiary of Custom Components. The parent company referred calls for comment to the developer.
The condominium occupants are permitted to stay in their units but may not access their balconies. W Hotel guests have been relocated to area hotels.
This is not the first incident of broken panels in architectural glass railings. In September, The Toronto Starreported that two such panels had broken, falling from the Murano condominium building in downtown Toronto.
The Austin-American Statesman also noted two incidents of falling glass leading to panel replacements or policy changes in its current coverage of the W Hotel: Brisbanne, Australia now requires new tempered glass to undergo “heat soaking” to identify faulty pieces. In Cleveland, guardrails at the Browns’ football stadium were replaced with laminated glass after two panels broke and fell, landing in empty seats, the article said.
The seven-month-old LEED Silver Certified hotel from BOKA Powell Architects and Andersson-Wise Architects is part of the mixed-use, 1-million-square-foot Block 21 project which includes condominiums, a theater, and more than 50,000 square feet of restaurant, shopping, and office space.
The hotel’s 251 rooms comprise 17 stories while the upper 17 levels are devoted to 159 branded condominium units. The falling glass came from panels on the condominium balconies.
BOKA Powell served as the architect of record for the project. Thornton Tomasetti and Austin Commercial, both Dallas–based firms, worked as W Hotel’s structural engineer and general contractor, respectively. Curtain Wall Design and Consulting, another Dallas firm, was called in to perform independent inspection services to find causes of the recent failures.
Post updated Tuesday, July 12 to reflect new information confirming that Dallas-based Curtain Wall Design and Consulting performed independent investigation services following the W Hotel incident. The company was not involved with initial inspections of the glass.