Glass is no longer just “a window material.” Modern engineering in conjunction with scientific advancements are allowing it to enhance the quality of living quality, aesthetics and the environment.
Long gone are the days where the use of glass as a building element was a square sheet in a small aperture of a steel, concrete or timber facade.
These days, structural glazing systems result in a completely clean, transparent flush curtain wall that can be tailored to achieve particular acoustic, thermal and photo chromatic outcomes.
Point supported engineered glass systems are the most transparent systems on the market today and can be engineered for any opening or facade. Externally they have silicone joints, but internally they are supported by engineered glass fins and held in place by steel corner fittings which together transfer deadloads and windloads back to the structure.
The glass structure can be paired with an incredible array of hi-tech engineered glass: insulating glass, low-e (emissivity) glass, laminated and monolithic, for a variety of construction elements including walls, roofs and skylights, canopies and elevator enclosures.
One type of glass panel coating (low-e coatings) reduces the emission of radiant infrared energy, thus tending to keep heat on the side of the glass where it originated, while letting visible light pass. This results in glazing with better control of energy – heat originating from indoors in winter remains inside (the warm side), while heat during summer does not emit from the exterior, keeping it cooler inside.
With glass curtain wall engineering, engineers are able to not only accommodate but improve upon architectural crystalline and curved designs by providing for angled facades with in and out angles and degrees of splay, whilst at the same time yield high levels of natural light and thermal characteristics to further enhance aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties and utility.
Glass panel façade systems are also capable of being engineered with photochromic or electrochemical glass. The former adjusts opacity to respond to ambient lighting conditions to optimise the use of artificial lighting indoors and eliminate glare discomfort to occupants, while the latter system consists of liquid crystal film installed between glazing panes. Variations to the electrical field causes the crystals to alight or misalign adjusting the opacity of the facade. This can either be a programmed or occupant adjusted opacity.
Changing the opacity of the curtain wall not only gives natural light when desired, but it can also be used to aid in heating and cooling with associated energy benefits.
The strategies can involve trade-offs and are not universal. Thus, each case requires separate and specific engineering having regard to building position, geographical and climatic conditions. Both sun and shade have their roles and it is the façade engineering which is the first step towards creating an ecological and enhanced building outcome.