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Update: Expert weighs in on glass falling from Seattle hotel

Kevin Prichard
Why a particular panel of tempered glass breaks can often be hard to determine since the damage itself hides the cause, said Darrell Aldrich is General Manager of Northwest Industries.

One of Seattle’s most exclusive addresses is fixing an alarming problem: tempered glass panels from luxury balconies at the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences have been crumbling and raining down from the sky. 

It’s happened three times since July. 

No one has been hurt in the incidents, though the glass awnings below and one car were damaged. 

Darrell Aldrich is General Manager of Northwest Industries, a glass manufacturer in Seattle.  His company didn’t make the panels at the Four Seasons, but he says this phenomenon has been around for a long time.

“Sometimes it's improper installation, where the building or the framework moves and puts some stress into the glass and the glass can break. The other thing that can happen is during manufacturing, shipping or installation, the glass can be damaged and weakened. Then, a composite of things, like maybe some flexing, twisting, heat or solar loading sometimes is enough to cause it to break."

He says another cause could come from impurities of nickel sulfide in the glass. However, he says it's almost always very difficult if not impossible to determine the ultimate cause of these incidents, since the evidence gets destroyed in the process.

The hotel at First and Union (near Pike Place Market) has now closed the balconies and is replacing all 300 panels, which are on the 11th to 21st floors. 

Glass panels have also fallen from the sky this summer at high-rise condos in Austin and Toronto.


Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.