Glass Buildings and The Environment

Here is another article from Thomas Hens on designing of glass buildings keeping in mind their impact on environment.

In our last issue, we discussed a number key factors to be taken into account when choosing facade glass. This issue will focus primarily on the environment and demonstrate that designers of glass buildings are also thinking about our planet.

We will be looking at three environmentally friendly construction methods:

  • Insulating buildings: cutting C02 emissions by reducing energy loss via glass.
  • Generating energy: cutting energy consumption by using glass as a construction component as well as to generate electricity.
  • Using sustainable materials and environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques.

Continue reading

Glass Types for Building Envelope Products

There are typically four different glass types used in glazing products: From weakest to strongest they are: Annealed, Heat Strengthened, Tempered and Laminated.

1. Annealed glass is your basic non-impact glass type. It is used in applications where the required wind load is not so high and safety requirements are not a concern. When annealed glass breaks, it breaks in sharp chards.

2. Heat Strengthened glass is also a non-impact glass. It undergoes a “heat treatment” that increases it’s strength to twice that of annealed glass. It is used in similar applications to annealed glass but where the required wind loads are much higher. When heat strengthened glass breaks, it also breaks in chards.

3. Tempered glass is your basic impact glass. It undergoes a more aggressive “treatment” that increases it’s strength to four times that of annealed glass. It is used in “small missile” impact applications typically installed 30 feet or higher above ground and in safeguard applications. When tempered glass breaks, it breaks into very small cubes.

4. Laminated glass is your typical impact glass. It is a combination of two (usually) of the three previously mentioned glass types that are “laminated” together with an interlayer between them. It is typically used in “large missile” impact applications installed up to 30 feet above ground. When laminated glass breaks, it breaks based on it’s glass type make-up but is held in place by the interlayer…similar to a car’s windshield.

Rick DLG

Is Glass Really A Green Building Material?

If somebody says that Glass is a green building material, the straight and honest answer would be a big No! Just because in many high rise green rated buildings, glass has been used extensively, it doesn’t make it a green product in itself. One might have encountered with many architects and glass industry professionals who bluntly promote glass as a green product, then why is this article contradicting that belief? Here is an explanation on why glass is not a green product by itself, but why it is essential for a green rated building. This article is in context of float glass only, which is the most widely used in buildings.

Glass could earn a few green points for the fact that it could be recycled. Broken pieces of glass are added along with the raw materials while glass is manufactured so as to bring down the boiling point and there by reduce the energy consumption. Also if the manufacturing facility is near to the building in construction, that could also fetch a few points for green rating, as the material is locally sourced. Local sourcing of material means less energy consumed for transporting the material.

Glass is extensively used in green buildings to harvest maximum light inside and to reduce energy consumption for internal lighting requirements. When more natural light enters a building, equal amount of heat also enters the building. 50% of the Visual Light Transmittance (VLT) is direct solar energy (ER or DET). So when you are asking for 100% light transmittance, you are getting 50% of heat along with it! If in a building, which is centrally air-conditioned, and if it is clear glass which is being extensively used, energy consumption for internal lighting might get reduced to a significant level, but at the same time energy consumption by the air-conditioner would be enormously escalated. This is where solar control and thermal insulating glasses play a major role.

Solar control glasses let in maximum light and also cuts DET down to a great level. Since 80 to 90% of heat entering a building is solar heat, maximum energy could be saved on lighting and air-conditioning. Apart from direct solar energy, non-solar energy or indirect energy, could also be controlled by using double glazed/ Isulated glass units(DGU / IGU), and thermal insulating glass. A DGU cuts down the heat entering a building due to conduction (glass is a good heat conductor) and convection. A thermal insulating or a low emissivity (Low-e) coated glass can reduce the non-solar heat by cutting down the transmittance of Long Wave Infra Red Radiation (LWIR). LWIR is emitted by objects like trees and furnitures during the night time, which absorb the Short Wave Infra Red Radiation (SWIR). In moderate to cold climate conditions, where heaters are used in buildings, it is better to go for a very low u-value glass, so as to prevent heat loss from the building. In tropical climates, it is better to have a moderate u-value range.

In short, it is not an isolated pane of glass that is green rated or that helps you gain green points, it is the configuration of glass units installed in your building, based on the window to wall ratio, orientation of the building, total glazing area, energy efficiency of the building, and hours of operation of the building occupants.

(Originally written for

Soft Coat Glass

Soft Coat Glass, otherwise known as vacuum coated or off-line coated glasses, are manufactured by a process which is entirely different from hard coat glass (discussed in last post). The name soft coat is given because of the susceptible nature of the coating to get peeled off (in single glazing/ monolithic application) when compared to hard coat. However, soft coat glasses can offer a very low solar factor when compared to hard coat glasses.

Manufacturing process involves metal particles being deposited on the glass surface inside a vacuum chamber. The process, otherwise known as Magnetron Sputtering Vapor Deposition (MSVD) is sometimes referred to as Cathodic Vapor Deposition. Some glass manufacturers mention it as CVD coating, just to create a confusion with actual Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Vapor Deposition, mis-interpret it and mis-sell it as hard coat.

During the process, the material to be sputtered is loaded in a high voltage electric circuit, which is followed by the feeding of process gas into vacuum chamber, where plasma is formed. An ion discharge takes place inside the chamber, these positive charged ions gets attracted and collide with the material to be sputtered. This process happens at a very high speed and atoms of the material sputtered gets ejected, which gets accumulated on the glass below. Most widely used metals for sputtering are Silver and Titanium.

Soft coat glasses are generally used in double glazed units, with the coated surface at position 2 or 3, so that the coating is kept protected from peeling off. With the advance in technology, soft coat glasses are now made which can also be used in monolithic form (single glazed) with much improved life for the coating, but still the life of the coating cannot match with that of hard coat glass in monolithic applications.

Soft coat glass also has problems while tempering when compared to hard coat glass. It tends to show up a problem called lensing, which happens because the coated surface of the glass reflects Infra Red radiation and heats up differently than the lower surface (which is heated).



Solar and Heat Control Glasses


solar and non-solar heat

Glass is used in a building to harvest natural light inside it and there by reducing the internal artificial lighting requirements, in turn saving energy. The two major sources for heat entering the building is solar heat and non-solar heat; solar heat is nothing but the direct solar heat entering the building through visible light, non solar heat is caused by various factors like conduction, convection and radiation. Out of the heat sources, solar heat is the major one and requires more attention, even though the effects of non-solar heat could not be ignored as well, as it plays a major role in certain structures. Continue reading

A Glass Is a Glass Is Not Just a Glass!!!


To be honest, my exposure to glass and glazing industry is brief, and the same was my knowledge about glass. Glass never had more than a decorative value in my mind, as it had to be for me since I was from a decorative product segment (paints). It was just after I got inducted into this industry that I had to invent this statement- “A Glass is a Glass is not just a Glass!!!”.

At first, I realized that there are different types of glasses being manufactured, each with different chemical properties and functions. But I could superficially assimilate the knowledge and as a new comer, it was enough for me to classify them as Soda-lime glass, lead glass, borosilicate glass and glass fibre. Since I’m only concerned with glass as a building material, I would be writing only about flat glass. Flat glass industry includes both float glass and sheet glass manufacturers. Basic difference between these two are the process by which they are made. Sheet glass is made by using iron rolling pins to flatten the molten glass and to get it into desired shape, and further grind and polish it to make it clear. Float glass on the other hand is flattened by making the molten glass to float over molten tin. I also learned that the float glass manufacturing process was invented by Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff in 1957. Continue reading