Acid-etched glass offers a window into the future of building security

Architects are increasingly specifying acid-etched glass by Walker Glass for projects such as elementary schools, corporate laboratories, private research facilities, hospitals, and college and university buildings that require increased privacy and security. With its translucent satin appearance, availability on a range of tints and multiple levels of opacity, acid-etched glass does more than obscure interiors from view; it also maintains exceptional levels of light transmittance while offering building designers an expanded palette of aesthetic options. The following article highlights two recent projects that epitomize this trend.

Westmore Oaks Elementary School, Sacramento, California

When Westmore Oaks Elementary School in Sacramento, California was built in the 1950s, the security issues confronting today’s school boards and administrators was practically unimaginable. Nearly 70 years later, thanks to a recent renovation, the building serves as a showcase for how contemporary school design, including the use of full-surface acid-etched glass, can fulfill demand for bright, pleasant and highly sustainable learning environments while providing enhanced levels of protection and security for children and teachers.

Adriana Mouser, AIA, LEED® Green Associate™, CDT, is a project architect for fast-growing Studio W Architects in Sacramento. She said her firm, which planned the Westmore Oaks modernization and is expert in K-12 school design, specified full-surface acid-etched glass on the school’s first-floor windows to achieve two purposes. The first was to meet the local district’s mandate to block visual access to classrooms below specific heights from the exterior of the building. The second was to maintain elevated levels of daylighting which, studies have consistently shown, increase student performance.

“We see more and more school districts expressing concern for security and how glass affects those goals,” she explained. “We specified etched glass for this project because it provides more even distribution of light while providing the desired levels of security. The glazing above head height is clear so students still have visual access to the outdoors. Providing windows with ample daylighting is a baseline goal for any of our education projects.”

In addition to the use of acid-etched glass, Studio W specified smaller glass sidelights on classroom doors. The smaller size means that even if these windows are broken, an intruder could not walk through them. For another layer of security, they designed a “deterring landscape” to keep people away from the windows. New fencing and electronic hardware for all internal doors were among other security measures chosen to make the school’s 650 students, teachers and administrators safer and more secure.

ABB Corporate Campus, Montreal, Canada

Another recent project incorporating the aesthetic and security benefits of acid-etched glass is the new ABB corporate campus in Montreal. As one of the world’s leading providers of industrial digitization services, ABB charged Architecture49 and Vivian Zhang, the project’s lead architect and project manager, with creating a next-generation work environment that promotes the health and happiness of the company’s scientists, engineers and staff while protecting its proprietary research and development.

Zhang chose Walker Textures® Opaque acid-etched glass on a Starphire Ultra-Clear™ glass substrate specifically to achieve those objectives. “Each department, or business unit had its own requirements, and they were all coming together into one research and development building,” she explained. “The work they do is very sensitive and, as such, most of the staff were accustomed to working in buildings with no natural light and no views for security purposes. Our goal was first and foremost, to improve their working conditions and allow them to have access to a lot of natural lighting and views without compromising security and sensitive material. Needless to say, the glass was a very important aspect to help us achieve this goal.”

acid-etched glass for privacy and security

The Opaque treatment featured on the ABB project is just one of the four distinct finishes Walker Glass offers among its full line of Walker Textures® acid-etched products. Others include Satinlite, Satin, and Velour. When applied to conventional clear glass on a standard 6-millimeter (¼-inch) glass lite, these products achieve visible light transmittance of 88 to 91 percent along with total luminous transmittance of up to 83 percent and diffusion transmittance of up to 79 percent. Architects seeking to further enhance that performance can also specify these finishes on ultra-clear low-iron glass such as Starphire® glass by Vitro Architectural Glass.

More important than the data, however, are the finished spaces these types of glass help produce. They bathe highly private and secure spaces such as classrooms, hospital rooms and laboratories in warm, soft and diffuse blankets of natural light.

Taking the LEED®: Acid-Etch with Low-E

Like most contemporary architectural glass products, acid-etch glass products by Walker Glass can be integral to helping projects achieve LEED® certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Because they naturally transmit high levels of daylight while blocking solar heat energy, acid-etched glass is often specified with coated low-e glass in insulating glass units (IGUs) to optimize energy performance, a critical criterion in the LEED® category for Energy and Atmosphere (EA).

Walker Glass also features a line of bird-safe glass products. Acid-etched with beautiful, decorative patterns scientifically proven to make glass more visible to birds, AviProtek® bird friendly glass dramatically reduces the incidence of bird/glass strikes on buildings, enabling architects to protect wildlife while potentially earning LEED® Pilot credits for Innovation (IN).

Due to their low emissions and life-cycle impacts, acid-etched glass products by Walker Glass can help projects earn LEED® credits in categories such as Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and Materials and Resources (MR). Walker Glass provides comprehensive detail about the life-cycle impacts of its products in its Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

Ready to learn more?

Whether you’re designing a new elementary school, corporate research and development centre or state-of-the-art hospital, Walker Glass offers a complete range of solutions to enhance the appearance, security and sustainability of your next building project. Contact your Architectural Manager to discover how we can help.

acid-etched glass for privacy and security

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