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The last two years have been marked by a rapid growth in the construction of death-defying glass skywalks, with more than five built in China alone. With each new glass-bottom exhibit comes a challenge to build it higher, longer and more terrifying. Completed in September 2015, the Haohan Qiao or “Brave Man’s Bridge” is suspended 590-feet—that’s about the height of a five-story building or 1-1/2 lengths of a football field–above the Shiniuzhai National Geological Park and connects two cliffs 984 feet apart.. In China’s Wulong National Geographic Park, a 36’ x 85’ viewing deck was completed in October 2015. It cantilevers 820 feet above Karst Valley, providing visitors with unmatched views of the already popular scenic site.
While Zhangjiajie National Forest Park already offers one glass-bottom exhibit with its “Walk of Faith,” a nearly 200-foot section of the cliff-hanging walkway that scales the side of Tianmen Mountain more than 4600 feet in the air, a second vertigo-inducing attraction is set to open in this same region. When this quarter mile long glass skywalk over the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon opens in July 2016, it will earn China the record for both longest and highest glass-bottom bridge.
China also holds the title for longest cantilevered walkway with its horseshoe-shaped glass skywalk in Chongqing. It extends 87.5 feet from the cliff edge, more than 16 feet longer than the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and hovers 2,350 feet above a valley.
Strength and Durability of Laminated Glass
While each venue takes a slightly different approach to the increasingly popular glass walkway, there is one structural similarity –- laminated glass. Because glass can be damaged and fail instantaneously, each layer of glass is actually designed to support the necessary load. So, while it might not entirely ease your mind to know that glass can fail – and quite often does – take some comfort in knowing that these glass walkways have been over-engineered to account for such shortcomings and keep you safe.
Recently, BBC Click’s Dan Simmons was invited to the new Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon glass skywalk to test the strength and durability of the glass panels when struck with a sledgehammer. While this may not entirely ease your fears, the laminated glass sustained a dozen hits without failing. As with other glass-bottom exhibits, the top layer of glass was quick to shatter, but the lower two glass panels remained intact.
Photo courtesy of www.cnn.com
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