A San Francisco high-rise is now blaming its notorious neighbor, the Millennium Tower, for causing its windows to break during last month’s windstorms — a finding that prompted dissatisfied city officials to order an independent probe of all of the city’s high-rise window failures, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned.
In two windstorms last month, windows broke or fell out of six separate high-rises in San Francisco. City officials ordered full reports from the owners within 14 days, explaining what happened.
In one of those reports, a consultant for Salesforce East at 350 Mission blames the neighboring 58-story Millennium Tower, across the street at 301 Mission, for its window failures.
The theory is that glass from a window that broke at Unit 49A of the Millennium blew across the street, hitting and breaking Salesforce East’s upper floor windows. Those upper floor windows sent glass down to lower floor windows, which were in turn damaged.
But, Bill Thomas, a 42-year veteran of the glass industry, says glass fragments from Millennium’s broken window would simply be too heavy to have blown that far across a street — even in extreme conditions like last month’s windstorms.
“This magical glass,” he said, “has to fly from Millennium — across Mission, into the building.”
“That just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Thomas said.
But the Salesforce East report says it has evidence to back its theory, in the form of glass fragments found on the Salesforce East roof, which is enclosed by a 30-foot high wall. The fact that there was glass on the roof of the 30-story high-rise, it says, suggests those fragments were somehow “blown towards” Salesforce East “from a higher elevation.”
The chain reaction triggered by those upper windows breaking, the report says, caused damage to the lower floor windows. In all, city officials say some 20 windows broke from the 10th to the 30th floors.
Salesforce East officials did not respond to a request for comment.
“It is just a case of finger-pointing — it is baloney, and I’m calling ‘BS,’’’ said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is seeking reforms on city inspection requirements for the city’s newest, tallest buildings that had previously enjoyed 30-year inspection exemptions on their windows. “There is no earthly way that the glass at 301 Mission could have caused those failures.”
Millennium’s own report did acknowledge that one of its windows failed after being left open, causing it to break in high winds. But it says all operable windows in high-rises pose a similar risk if someone leaves them open, like what happened with Unit 49A.
In a statement, the city’s Department of Building Inspection says it was “not satisfied” with any of the reports it has received to date. Officials say the plan now is to enlist an independent expert to help determine why windows failed on all six buildings during the windstorms, and make recommendations.
Thomas says that evaluation is urgently needed, because while many high-rise windows have protective backing that prevent glass from falling out even after a window breaks, the backing isn’t required by code.
“Why did glass break in any of these buildings? Why did the glass evacuate (and fall from) the openings in these buildings. Neither one of those two things should have happened,” Thomas concluded. “Until that is corrected, it is a potential hazard to the general public.”
Source: NBC Bay Area
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