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Effective thickness is a simplified method for the structural evaluation of laminated glass section properties. The method consists of defining the effective thickness (i.e., the thickness of a monolithic section with equivalent flexural or torsional section properties) between the bounding layered and monolithic limits. The established effective thickness method in the glass design standard ASTM E1300 is limited to a uniformly loaded, simply supported, two-ply beam in flexure, and presents strong limitations for the evaluation of cantilevered glass balustrade flexural performance and structural glass fin stability.
Advancements in effective thickness models have simplified the design of laminated glass. The recently proposed Conjugate Beam Effective Thickness (CBET) method and the Enhanced Effective Thickness (EET) method account for the influence of various boundary and loading conditions and are readily applicable to evaluate the flexure and stability of laminated glass beams with increased accuracy. In this paper, the CBET and EET methods are applied to the structural evaluation of 2-ply cantilevered glass balustrades and multi-ply structural glass fins. Predicted stresses, deflections, and critical buckling loads obtained from simplified methods are compared with finite element analysis model results for illustrative design examples.
Laminated glass combines multiple plies of glass bonded with interlayers into a single lite, often for safety-glass impact performance, strength, redundancy, or to develop thicker lites for longer spans. Effective thickness is a simplified method for the structural evaluation of laminated glass section properties and is useful for the evaluation of stress, deflection, and stability with classic beam engineering equations. The effective thickness methods consist of defining the thickness of a monolithic section with equivalent flexural or torsional section properties, bounded by the non-composite layered and fully-composite monolithic limits.
The Wölfel-Bennison (W-B) effective thickness method included in the glass standard ASTM E1300 , developed by Wölfel  for concrete composite decks and advanced by Bennison et. al.  for laminated glass, is well known in the glazing industry. The W-B effective thickness method shows excellent correlation with finite element analysis (FEA) models (i.e., numerical models) of 2-ply simply supported laminated glass beams in flexure and has been validated with four-point bending tests . Furthermore, this method will often predict near full composite behavior for short duration loads on 2-ply glass laminates with stiff interlayers (e.g., extra-stiff polyvinyl butyral (PVB) and ionoplast), preferred for structural glass applications over conventional PVB.
In accordance with the current effective thickness recommendations in ASTM E1300, we frequently observe the generic application of the W-B method for evaluation of all combinations of glass geometries, loads, and boundary conditions. Wölfel’s composite analysis method was intended for estimation of simply supported composites with out-of-plane concentric loads; however, this method lacks correlation for applications with cantilevered beam performance in flexure [15, 16] as shown in Figure 1, application (i), and glass fin stability , application (iii). Application of existing effective thickness models for the evaluation of stresses in cantilevered laminated glass have not been successful . Very recently, the Conjugate Beam Effective Thickness method proposed by Galuppi and Nizich [12, 16] provides effective thickness formulas which more precisely correlate with cantilevered laminated glass boundary conditions.
In comparison, an alternative effective thickness method for the evaluation of flexural and torsional stiffness of 2- and 3-ply glass beams advanced by Luible [6, 19, 20], based on the sandwich beam theory presented by Stamm and Witte , and was recently proposed in the draft Eurocode for structural glass CEN/TS 19100 . However, Luible’s method has had limited adoption for glass fin design outside of Europe. Potential reasons include continued reference to ASTM E1300 as the sole effective thickness method (as also referenced in the Australian glass standard AS-1288  which includes glass fin design), as well as regional differences in engineering nomenclature, relative complexity of equations, and a contemporary preference for stiff interlayers that are widely believed to provide high coupling.
Currently, there is renewed interest in the application of softer interlayers for multi-ply (e.g., lites with 3 or more glass plies) laminated glass fins where fully-tempered glass is specified to mitigate a cohesive glass failure mode 1 observed by Coult . Specification of softer interlayers and design for post-fracture behavior have led to glass fins composed of 4 or more plies which are not readily evaluated with Luible’s method. Recently, the Enhanced Effective Thickness method [11, 13, 14] was extended to the evaluation of multi-ply beams with unlimited plies in flexure and torsion.
Here, we examine the analytical considerations for laminated glass and advances in effective thickness methods for laminated glass structural design with:
- the Conjugate Beam Effective Thickness (CBET) method recently proposed by Galuppi and Nizich [12, 16] for cantilevered laminated glass in flexure, and
- the Enhanced Effective Thickness (EET) method, widely used in Europe, proposed by Galuppi and Royer-Carfagni [13, 14] for flexure and torsion of multi-ply glass laminates with various load and boundary conditions, and extended by D’Ambrosio & Galuppi  to evaluate the flexural stiffness from axial loading for evaluation of critical buckling.
Cantilevered laminated glass balustrades, parapets, and windscreens supported in a continuous U-profile base-shoe are a common application of structural glass found in both ordinary construction and innovative architecture. The supported
Glass fins composed of multiple plies of glass laminated into a beam with interlayers are frequently utilized as transparent structural elements. Stability for in-plane axial and flexural forces are a
Task groups within the ASTM E06.52 subcommittee  and the European Committee for Standardization  are currently developing new structural glass standards. In support of this work, a new ASTM
Effective thickness methods offer an efficient estimate of laminated glass section properties that can be used in well-known engineering equations for beams. As with any simplified method, accuracy is limited
Coult  described the risk of constrained crack growth in multi-ply glass laminate with a stiff interlayer from fracture of a fully-tempered mid-ply, resulting in cohesive shear failure of the glass, and the catastrophic splitting of the laminate into two unconnected leaves.↩︎
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