Glass falls from 48th-floor balcony of Austonian, tallest Austin tower

Glass fell from a pane on an exterior balcony on the 48th floor of Austin’s tallest building, the Austonian condominiums, on Thursday afternoon.

No injuries were reported in the incident, which caused Congress Avenue to be briefly shut down between Second and Third streets. A parking lot adjacent to the 56-story building also was shut down.

A person called 911 reporting “raining shards of glass” on Third Street at 2:32 p.m., Austin police said. The tempered glass from the building is designed to shatter when struck, officials said. Glass bits spread out for almost a block on Congress Avenue and damaged one car in a parking lot near Third Street and Congress

Austin Fire Battalion Chief Richard Thompson said no one is living in the unit where the pane fell and there’s no active construction on that floor. Officials also checked for bird feathers or any other evidence of an impact but none was there, said Ron Weltmann, the vice-president of the board of the Austonian Condominium Association.

Surveillance video will be reviewed, but for the time being, the building’s officials believe it was a one-off, freak occurrence.

“It is not systemic,” Weltmann said. “This is not the situation like we had a few years ago.”

In October 2011, pieces of glass fell from the downtown high-rise after an unknown object hit an exterior window on the 45th floor on the building’s east side, officials said at the time. No injuries were reported.

The glass company has been notified about the latest incident, Weltmann said.

In June 2011, the nearby W Austin Hotel & Residences briefly closed after eight panes of glass shattered and fell from balcony railings more than 200 feet above the street. In the first of three incidents, four people were injured June 10 when two panels fell.

Tempered glass was at issue with the balcony glass at the W Hotel. The incidents forced management to temporarily close the hotel and replace railings with a safer design. In rare, but often high profile occasions, tempered glass has shattered spontaneously, causing cube-shaped pieces of glass to rain down.

After the glass-falling incidents at the W Hotel and elsewhere, the International Code Council in 2012 called for the use of stronger laminated glass, which has an invisible resin film, in railings above areas where people walk. The code change was included in the 2015 International Building Code, which came out five years after the Austonian was built.

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