Innovations in steel window fabrication

Steel windows and doors are a beautiful and coveted aspect of many architectural design projects, creating an industrial and sometimes art deco design to buildings in all sectors of design. IQ Metal UK explore

Steel windows and doors’ use in architectural design can be dated all the way back to medieval period with local blacksmiths creating bespoke windows from wrought iron. As their craft skills increased so did the size of steel windows they were able to create, however they were unable to produce large panes of glass at that time. So came the idea of joining glass panes together with slim metal sections – this is what we now refer to as ‘leaded lights’.

The manufacturing of steel windows eventually moved to factories that were able to create fixed and opening steel windows with slim metal framing. This reduced the costs significantly of these previously exclusive window designs.

In 1856 the process of hot rolling was perfected revolutionising the use of the steel casement window worldwide. This effective manufacturing technique for steel windows created a boom in demand with their slim metal frames being used on the most prolific architecture of the time from houses to; government buildings, factories, Bauhaus inspired architecture and Henrietta Barnet inspired country cottages.

Crittal Windows were one of the largest manufacturers of hot rolled steel windows and their name has become the generic term used for most steel windows, with many designers looking for a ‘Crittal style aesthetic’ to their windows and doors.

Demand for these slim framed steel windows dropped off in the 1970’s and aluminium took over as the most popular window framing material. However, thanks to the modern innovations in steel fabrication techniques, steel windows are experiencing a new surge in popularity and a new lease of life.

The popularity of aluminium can mostly be explained by their low maintenance finish as well as their improved thermal performance due to thermal break technology, something that was not possible for steel window frames.

The advance of cold rolled steel profiles has allowed for the creation of fully thermally broken steel windows, enabling these once coveted and luxury windows to adhere to, and exceed, modern Building Regulations whilst maintaining their slim and elegant finish.

A two part thermal break system is the base of this improved thermal performance. A structural reinforced core to the thermal break is made from extruded polyamide which helps to maintain the inherent strength of a steel frame allowing them to maintain slim profiles. The thermal break is then filled with high density polyurethane to increase the insulation values. The strong yet insulating steel window profiles can then hold a double, or even triple glazed, unit to create a fully insulating steel window. Resulting in steel windows achieving a Uw value of less than 1.0 W/m²K which is impressive for any type of metal window, especially steel.

The modern, thermally efficient steel windows are perfect to recreate the Art Deco, industrial architectural designs that are so popular at the moment. By using these modern slim frames in a galvanised steel frame, powder coated to your preferred frame colour, you create slim metal windows which are a perfect match to traditional designs, but with the thermal performance required of modern buildings.

But what about a steel window made from CortenTM Steel? Or Architectural Bronze? Or even Stainless Steel? All are possible now with the innovations in steel fabrication.

Steel windows made from these interesting framing materials can create an exciting architectural design that is different and unique. You maintain the slim framing sections, the improved thermal performance from advances in thermal breaking, and inherent security of steel framing but in a design that is new and different.

Architectural Bronze windows are popular on luxury building designs for their luxury high-end aesthetics. Architectural Bronze, or Brass, can be finished in a number of ways to create the antique appearance that most architects want when using these frames.

David Chipperfield used these ‘Bronze’ window frames to the exclusive De Vere Gardens Development in Kensington, London. The use of this elegant framing material to the windows enhances the luxurious design to this high end residential development. A similar design finish can be created using a Stainless Steel window or door system if a silver finished appearance is required or desired.

Corten Steel frames will give an altogether different appearance. The weathered coating of Corten Steel is unique and textured, giving depth and interest to the window frames. Using this fascinating material for the window frames on your project is a bold design move but if executed well can create amazingly unique buildings that are easy to maintain with a finish that will not degrade.

With modern fabrication techniques and industry innovations there is more scope than ever to incorporate steel windows and doors on your project.