The human element

Many new build properties are being designed without integral chimneys, and what with the likes of the “Passive House” movement, one could easily argue the future of the fire/fireplace could well be limited. However that’s not the whole story, as SKAN reports.

There remains in each of us, a basic “human” desire for a place to rest and relax. A place which is not only safe and comfortable, but where a sense of “wellbeing” can reside – The feeling you get when you are sat beside water, or lying on a sun-kissed beach or sitting around a warm/crackling fire on a cold dark night chatting with friends and family.

This almost “intangible” desire for “well-being” has driven gas and wood-burning stove manufacturers to provide innovative room heater appliances that are not just functional heat providers, but are beautiful by design, complementing a room’s high class decor, while providing “flame-pictures” that are natural but often observed with some wider panoramic element to the design also, ensuring everyone can gather round and enjoy the experience.

It’s not just the appliances that are changing. The positioning of these new desirable heating appliances, are also undergoing their own mini revolution. No longer just confined to a standard floor mounted hearth position on an outer/party wall, but now elevated and wall mounted, or simply free-standing and some even ceiling mounted!

Alongside the “free-thinking” positioning of the heating appliance is the requirement for wider/multiple viewing angles. This in itself has spawned an increased use of vision windows and principally glass in and around the fire. As soon as the word “fire glass” is included in the mix, selecting the right glass type/form for each application can then become quite complex. Standard fire retardant glazing standards were developed to stringent “protection” protocols, with a very clear time/casement specification to allow the safe evacuation of occupants from a fire situation. These standards are therefore somewhat at odds when considering the glass within a fireplace application.

The demands of glass within a fireplace are somewhat different. Clearly there’s usually heat involved but often at much reduced levels. But exactly how much heat? And which fuel is being burned? These and many other factors can vary wildly dependent on the design brief. Although glass manufacturers business remains strongly rooted within the prime OEM wood burning stove and gas fire manufacturing sector, glass manufacturers are receiving an ever increasing number of requests coming from architects and end customers wishing to use (“how they describe”) “fire glass” but in more “one-off ”/specialty fire/fireplace installations. Possibly used as a glass fire-guard (in-front of the appliance), or as a glass hearth-plate (underneath the appliance), sometimes as rear-glass-wall-panels (behind the appliance), and some glass to “frame” the appliance.”

Then there is the more functional requirements. A good example of this can be where the draw on the pre-existing chimney has been compromised creating the instance where smoke can “spillage” of the combustion by-products can plume from beneath the lower edge of the gather/inglenook. The “fix” here is to use a transparent “thin glass strip” to extend the front lip of the “gather”/inglenook to improve the overall “draw” of the system.

Finally, there are the really challenging dual purpose decorative and functional applications for glass such as the 2-sided fire appliance, where a secondary piece of glass sits beside the appliance, often retained within a wall/cavity, just like a window casement. We’ve seen these designs employed both on internal/party walls but also within external walls, thus allowing for the appliance/fire to be viewed from outside the building too! Each application is so very different, there is no simple/generic set of “off-the-shelf ” solutions

The above is a typical story that many different sectors within the fireplace market can relate and support. From stove manufacturers to raw material providers, from installers to stove shops, the current trend is most definitely toward higher value “bespoke installations”, which in turn is pushing the industry to offer more unique solutions, and from all areas of the fires/fireplace industry.

As the never-ending drive for fuel efficient homes continues apace, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that the needs for fires and fireplaces are changing too.

The sense of “wellbeing” has always been a very personal matter for each of us and maybe this change is simply just an expression of this individuality?