Why Are Commercial Buildings Made of Glass?


Architects and designers are increasingly using glass in buildings, such as skyscrapers, because of its adaptability and versatility. Glass improves a building’s appearance and ambiance by allowing light in, providing a sense of space, and adding simple modernity and flair. However, the qualities and applications of glass are far from solitary or straightforward.

When choosing windows for your commercial establishment, you need to consider several factors. Aside from following the usual local building codes and regulations, you also need to factor in the size, material, cost, and the potential impact on its surroundings, especially to the people in the area.

 

 Uses of Glass

Glass is an abundant resource, and it’s also one of the most useful. Applications range from optics, tableware, decorations to window panels and more. Due to its essential uses, it is the indispensable construction material for many modern buildings. It will continue to be a valuable building material moving forward.

Since glass is a relatively lightweight material, it is common in most buildings because it reduces the entire structure’s deadload. This factor is critical, especially to highrise buildings that need to be lightweight. In addition, there are now variations of reinforced glass used to strengthen the glass further for other construction and industrial uses.

 

Commercial Glass Sustainability

Most glass is infinitely recyclable, aiding in making it a preferred construction material. Furthermore, due to the popular demand from industry for sustainability, using glass is an attractive option for many architects.

The sustainable factors of glass can also help to increase a building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating. The rating is a standard set by the industry that can boost a building’s reputation due to its lessened impact on the environment. While numerous building materials and systems impact a structure from a LEED rating standpoint, few have as much of an effect as a project’s glass design and usage. Sometimes architects may attempt to increase the rating by having more LEED-related installations or features such as drywall access doors and panels that add convenience and safety to a building. 

 

Glass Transparency in Commercial Buildings

The percentage of visible light passing through the glass is known as visual or visible light transmittance (VLT). Glass is one of the best materials for this purpose. Due to this property, it can let in a large amount of natural light, which can be very beneficial for heating and temperature control. It is also helpful in creating an illusion of making confined areas into spacious ones. Numerous studies have been produced that indicate workers feel more comfortable and are often more productive when natural light brought into a structure through window openings is present.

 

Commercial Glass Building Heat and Cooling Considerations 

Similar to the glass used in residential homes, insulating glass units greatly benefit commercial buildings’ heating and cooling concerns. Additionally, glass in commercial and residential buildings can be treated (coated) to help with heating and cooling considerations. In particular, glass treated with Low Emissivity (low-E) coatings can help retain heat in the winter. It also helps reject solar transmittance in the summer, reducing heat gain due to the sun.

 

Glass is Easy to Work With

The workability of glass comes in a variety of ways. It is possible to blow, draw, or press it. Glass with various qualities is available, including clear, tinted, reflective, diffused, and stained. It can be cut, bent, laminated, heat tempered, filmed, fused, carved, chemically treated, formed, and sandblasted. It is a go-to material for artists, decorators, architects, and manufacturers.  The everyday uses of glass products are endless.

 

Types of Glass Commonly Found in Commercial Spaces

Flat Glass (often referred to as “float,” plate, or window glass):

This term is somewhat generic and refers to what could be called the “primary glass,” which is used to produce most of what is seen in structures today. Flat/float glass is manufactured in a variety of thicknesses. In addition, it is often tinted, tempered, or laminated to produce end products for commercial and residential buildings.

There is also what is known as “Low-iron” flat or float glass. This product uses a raw component mixture that differs from ordinary flat/float glass to produce a clearer (less green tint) glass. Originally developed primarily for the furniture industry rather than the construction industry, “low-iron” glass has made its way into the commercial construction arena and has become a popular glass choice with architects and owners.

 

Laminated Glass:

When shattered, this type of glass is likely to remain in place due to an inner-layer of polyvinylbutyl (PVB). The PVB interlayer also helps block UV rays from the sun, which can reduce fading of interior components such as carpeting, wood floors, and furnishings. This lamination process also produces safety-rated glass, bullet-resistant glass, hurricane-resistant glass, and sound-reducing glass products. Laminated glass is also the glass used in vehicle windshields. It can be cut and fabricated and thus is a very versatile product.

 

Tempered Glass:

Tempered glass is a type of safety glass, also known as toughened glass. The process involves cutting and fabricating a piece of float (flat) glass and then putting this piece of glass into a heating oven, where it is heated to approximately 1150 degrees Fahrenheit. After this heating process is performed, the glass is quickly cooled, which puts the glass into a molecular state where it is strengthened to approximately 4-5 times its original strength (resistance to impact).

The glass used in what is known as spandrel panels typically is tempered and colored with ceramic frit, paint opacifiers, or other materials. Spandrel panels are used in openings where visibility into an area of a building is not desired.

 

Insulated Glass or Thermo-Panes:

As the term implies, glass fabrications of this nature are intended to “insulate” for both heating and cooling purposes. A typical insulated glass unit will consist of two or more pieces of glass separated by air spaces, which is how the assembly achieves its insulating quality. Due to building code requirements and the practical benefit of using this type of glass product, most commercial and residential buildings incorporate this type of glass into their construction.

 

 

Final Thoughts on Glass Used in Commercial Buildings

Glass, as a building material, will continue to be utilized well into the future. It is an essential construction component that has made significant progress in energy conservation and safety over the past several years. In addition, it is a constantly evolving product that is an indispensable material for our everyday lives.

There are numerous other glass products (rolled glass, fire-resistant glass, chemically treated glass, art glass, x-ray glass, and so on) that are of interest. You are encouraged to research them further if so interested. Our goal here was to introduce you to some of the “Glass Basics,” hoping that your curiosity will lead you to want to further learn about the incredible world of glass.

 

 

Glass.com attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.
 
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By Steve Mabanding

Steve Mabanding is an author for Glass.com


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