Why is glass such an amazing material and the subject of so much debate in building design? This likely has little to do with the material itself but is much more fundamental as to what the glass does for a building and the building occupants. Glass creates tremendous value for the users on both sides of the window.
Glass is a transformational material. By looking through a window, you connect to the other side of the glass without considering anything about the window or glass itself. However, that piece of glass can accomplish dozens of different functions and the user may never know. Just to name a few features; the glass could be tempered, heat strengthened, laminated, part of an insulated glazing unit, hurricane-rated, turtle-code friendly, fire-rated glass, dynamic glass, light emitting glass, heated glass, bird-friendly glass, power generating glass (BIPV – Building Integrated Photovoltaic), privacy glass, switchable glass, sound-reducing acoustic glass, structural interlayer glass, blast-resistant glass, bullet resistant glass, anti-reflective glass, anti-glare glass, EMI shielding glass, transparent electrical conductive glass, anti-microbial glass, self-cleaning glass, or just a piece of annealed monolithic glass. Within this framework, there are literally dozens of ways that the window creates value for the occupant or user. However, the casual observer sees almost no difference. Fundamentally, this is the key reason we’re celebrating glass with the International Year of Glass 2022. Glass creates a massive value proposition for many purposes but is most times invisible within the application.
So, which purposes are primary or the most often considered in construction? For buildings, the two key points typically center on heat/cold management and daylight. These are the important features of buildings that are most often discussed in design and performance codes. Glass and window details are often the most defining characteristics to a building, but understanding how to mutually serve the aesthetic, performance, and cost drivers of windows are the fundamental issues for design and installation.