Structural glass has advanced in leaps and bounds with new technology and more and more cutting-edge products being released to market, giving engineers and architects even greater creative freedom.

Seven times stronger than ordinary, untreated glass, structural glass enables walls, floors and ceilings in buildings to be transparent and even fulfil a load-bearing role.

It is made by heating sheets of glass uniformly after manufacture until it becomes plastic, before rapidly cooling the glass with jets of air. The outer layers closest to the jets of air solidify first and contract as they cool. As the inner layers follow suit, this causes the outer layers to undergo compression.

‘The Bubble” in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, is the retail flagship store for America Today and covers 600 square metres of retail space divided over three building stories.

The Bubble

The Bubble

Design, engineering and manufacturing company Octatube collaborated with architectural firm Tarra to develop a system consisting of a geodetic dome with a triangular subdivision. The facade design is characterised by a high level of finishing, in which the means of fixing have been hidden from view.

Both the facade, steel structure and the spatial quality have been developed as one self-supporting skin. The structural layout consists of a steel framework of pentagons and hexagons, with a smooth and flush building skin of different triangular glass fillings.

Sentech’s structural glass systems fuse strength with transparent beauty at Empire City Casinos on Yonkers Raceway.

Designed by STUDIO V of New York City, the architecture of Empire City marks a drastic departure from standard casino design. A dramatic curved facade features over 45 feet of frameless low iron glass in a 300-foot arc that creates a backdrop to the entry canopy and a window opening onto the interior of the casino. This jaw-dropping display is the largest structure of its kind in North America.

Glass fin walls provide a highly transparent and cost effective structural glass solution. Sentech’s solution allows for the design of walls that can absorb large loads and building displacement without compromising structural integrity.

“At Empire City Casino, we set out to re-invent the modern casino. Our design features a four-story high arc of frameless glass to project the energy of the casino onto the building exterior, while bringing the drama of the landscape and architecture into the gaming hall,” said Jay Valgora, the principal and founder of STUDIO V Architecture. “The façade forms a backdrop for a dramatic porte cochere utilizing exotic structural systems and innovative materials.”

Empire City Casino

Empire City Casino

Arguably at the forefront of the structural glazing revolution is Pilkington, a company that has been working in the glass industry since 1826.

The £32 million redevelopment of Edgbaston Cricket Ground, the scene of many famous Ashes battles, increased the capacity at the world-famous stadium to more than 25,000, making it the second biggest cricket venue in the UK.

A highlight of the project is Media Centre, which through the use of the Pilkington Planar system offers uninterrupted views of the whole stadium, including magnificent panoramic vistas of the Birmingham skyline thanks to a two-storey glass fronted construction.

Edgbaston Cricket Ground

Edgbaston Cricket Ground

“The flush glass surface provided by the structural glazing system enabled us to easily install the glass on the main façade of the site where space was particularly tight,” said Andrew Stapleton, from installers Apic UK Limited. “It was an ideal structural solution, allowing for a bold and historically sympathetic design to be applied.”

The structural glazing system provides a flush glass surface by utilising stainless steel fittings housed in countersunk holes. These fix the glass façade back to the structure in lieu of using the more conventional framed systems.

The result is a fully engineered system with the minimum amount of support structure and the maximum possible visual clarity. A silicone seal between adjacent panels provides weatherproofing.

With the flexibility to design and build entire structures out of glass, the possibilities for brighter working environments with a greater sense of space are endless.