Blog: How glazing can help drive retail sales

From the independent used motor dealerships to the flagship luxury showrooms of the high-end car brands, the stock on the forecourt may differ dramatically but one overarching design feature of this market is the extensive use of glazing. James Keeling-Heane from Senior Architectural Systems looks at some of the key considerations for delivering glazed facades for the car showroom market.

The use of glazing in the retail sector is a common design choice and the traditional ‘shop window’ plays a huge role in helping to attract customers and creating a brand identity. The car showroom market has embraced the use of glazing even further, creating highly visible facades with eye-catching frontages that maximise the scale of the building and perfectly showcase both the company’s brand and its product. However, delivering the glazing that is such an important part of car showroom design is not without its challenges and striking the correct balance between aesthetic appeal, performance and maintenance is key.

Package deal

The external envelope of a car showroom can actually comprise various different systems including shop front glazing, windows, doors, curtain walling and cladding. Understanding how each of these systems integrate with each other and how the whole package works with the rest of the building envelope is essential. Here, early and close collaboration with the systems manufacturer and specialist installers can prove extremely beneficial in ensuring that the specification of the glazing package is both appropriate and cost-effective for the client. Indeed, specifying products from manufacturers that can supply the full suite of products and that have an established and experienced network of fabricators and installers can bring numerous cost and time savings to a project. The use of BIM can also help by flagging up potential risks and more importantly, providing the perfect forum in which cost-effective and practical solutions can be identified.

Sleek and stylish

Aluminium fenestration systems are a popular choice in the retail sector, particularly in the car showroom market, owing to their modern and attractive appearance. Both lightweight yet robust, the inherent strength of aluminium makes it the perfect material as it can carry large spans of glass in narrow frames. By reducing the visual impact of the frame and maximising the use of the glazing, aluminium systems can offer the attractive slim sightlines that designers so often desire and provide the uninterrupted views of the stock that clients demand.

Although the sleek appearance of the material lends itself perfectly to this market, aluminium systems also offer fantastic design flexibility as they can be powder coated in virtually any colour. The use of colour is a great way for the larger dealerships to reinforce brand identity but can also be an effective way of creating a bespoke and individual look for the independent retailers.

High performance

However as the old saying goes, looks aren’t everything. Creating the ideal interior is just as important, if not more so, as the external appearance of the showroom. A car is undoubtedly one of the most expensive purchases that people make and the importance of offering a comfortable and welcoming customer environment can’t be underestimated. As with any project that incorporates vast amounts of glazing, controlling solar gain is a key issue and unfortunately, not all buildings can be orientated to minimise this. As a result, attention must be paid to the type of systems used in terms of its thermal performance and compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations.

To help minimise solar gain, the most effective car showroom designs are those that combine high-performance glazing systems with shading and ventilation. This is often achieved through the use of brise-soleil and louvres, as well as the meticulous planning the positioning of window openings. The use of solar-controlled glass can also be used to further reduce the amount of heat that is absorbed. The specification of thermally efficient glazing systems that offer lower than stipulated U-values can bring additional benefits in terms of both reducing costs and carbon emissions. By specifying doors, windows and curtain walling systems that can achieve U-values that are far lower than stipulated in the current building regulations, major improvements can be made to the overall carbon footprint and there is the opportunity to off-set high carbon emissions in mechanically cooled areas.

When it comes to U-value ratings, less is more and the lower the figure, the more heat is retained. Aluminium glazing systems have evolved to offer improved thermal efficiency but a consequence of ever-decreasing U-values is that buildings that incorporate vast amounts of glazing can face problems associated with overheating. As such, the use of building services in this sector is traditionally very high. Reliance on the use of air-conditioning to create a comfortable interior environment for customers is not only far from energy-efficient but can also prove a costly solution. Similarly, the almost constant use of artificial lighting can also contribute to significant running costs and so increasingly, clients must consider more cost-effective and sustainable solutions.

Going the extra mile

The driving force behind all car showroom design schemes will always be the need to maximise sales, from creating a highly visible building that attract attention and custom, to ensuring the cars themselves are showcased in the best possible way and making the customer feel comfortable and relaxed. Increasingly, the environmental impact of car showrooms is becoming a more dominant consideration and fortunately, new innovations in the aluminium fenestration market means that saving energy doesn’t mean scrimping on style. Indeed when it comes to creating aspirational buildings that perform as good as they look, aluminium glazing systems really do go the extra mile.

James Keeling-Heane is sales director at Senior Architectural Systems