Adrian Adams of Saint-Gobain Building Glass outlines the current and future ‘megatrends’ that are influencing architectural glazing specification:
Architectural glazing is an exciting area, and there are always new trends and product developments. However, there are also a wide range of global ‘megatrends’ that are impacting consumers and the built environment, and so in turn specifiers.
Comfort and well-being
The latest ‘megatrend’ is to ensure that spaces deliver comfort and positively impact the health and wellbeing of users. Where glazing is concerned this means ensuring the inside temperature is comfortable and constant – not too hot in summer or too cold in winter.
This is where thermally controlled energy efficient glass has had a huge impact. But comfort and well-being also relates to solar control, acoustic glazing and visual comfort (reducing glare from the sun whilst maximising the use of natural light). We spend up to 90 per cent of our time in buildings, so it’s important that the experience is positive – glass plays a major role in achieving this goal.
Access to natural daylight has widely understood health and wellbeing benefits, so solar control glazing that limits the glare and heat of the sun yet has high light transmittance is in growing demand. Recent product developments in solar control glazing are helping architects achieve this balance of light transmission versus solar heat gain.
Glass as a structural element – large expanses & curves
The use of glass as a structural element in large areas (larger than 18 metres in some cases) is creating iconic light-filled buildings. The 32-foot glass cube that forms the entrance to the Apple store in New York is a great example. The cube is self-supporting and is totally free of structural steel. Daylight pours in and stunning views are offered of Central Park. A key innovation has been the ability to remove the need for transom and mullion systems for better sightlines.
There continues to be a trend to move away from designing glass ‘boxes’ and a desire to incorporate more fluid designs into today’s architecture. The latest technological advances in glass and structural engineering are making more adventurous architectural concepts become a reality in both the commercial and residential markets.
Facades can now change with the climatic environment rather than providing static performance all year round. A dynamic facade reacts to changes in outdoor and interior conditions, such as light or temperature, and makes a significant contribution to improving the energy efficiency of the envelope and reducing operating costs.
Glass that tints on demand is able to reduce glare and heat while letting natural light in. This allows users to create better thermal and visual comfort. It also means that they don’t need blinds or shutters.
Fire safety & security glazing
All elements of safety and security glazing continue to be a factor driving specification, with key examples including ballistic and fire glass. This trend will continue as countries look to protect their citizens and enhance their safety and comfort.
Modern working life & access to information
Architects now work flexibly and often work outside the traditional 9 to 5 work day. This has led to a need for access to information 24/7 and the onus is on product manufacturers – including glazing – to provide a wide range of technical information, specification tools and specifications online.
Urbanisation is forcing architects, developers and governing bodies to apply new thinking, and design differently. For example, cost and speed are often key issues, and we are seeing the increased use of modular and prefabricated housing solutions, impacting how glass is supplied. High rise accommodation is being increasingly used to maximise urban density, with specifications needing to take into account issues like wind loading and noise pollution, and we are seeing further development of acoustic glazing products to address these.
‘Industry 4.0’ is the current emerging trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. Computers and automation will work together in a completely different way, with robotics operating with very little input from humans. The way we manufacture glass will certainly develop and change in line with this trend.
Adrian Adams is the facades market manager at Saint-Gobain Building Glass