Glass that is very large and considered “oversize” has become a significant design trend for architects, impacting the operational activities of both fabricators and glazing contractors.
The desire to have as much natural light as possible enter a building space has been driven by occupancy well-being, confirmed through studies. Oversize glass is here to stay.
Exactly what is considered “oversize” when it comes to a glass installation? No formal size currently denotes oversize. In our questions to architects, their responses noted a range on widths from 2100mm/82” wide to 2500mm/98” and heights that went from a 4070mm/160” to 5600mm/220”- this size variation shows that there’s a wide range of perceptions of what constitutes the term “oversize.”
What are the main reasons for going bigger? Interestingly, we had a variety of responses within our anonymous panel of architects including the classic “because we can.” The most prolific serious response, and as noted above, was the growing desire for more natural light, leading to improved occupant well-being, comfort and productivity. This is what has the design community specifying larger openings.
One of the architects that we interviewed, stated, “Natural light has become such a powerful driver for us. Our clients are demanding we find more and more ways to take advantage of it, so we are focused on going bigger. Years ago we were limited by the manufacturing side but not anymore and that has been the greatest breakthrough for us.”
The “fabricator” is very much aware of this need driven by the demands of the design community. A critical component of this demand is glass quality. The old go to line “as is” no longer applies. One area of product quality that can be a serious issue on large spans of glass is called “anisotropy” and it can be a critical issue that relates directly to the look and performance of glass.
“As a manufacturer and supplier of monolithic, laminated and insulating glass panels to the high-end retail markets, we produce larger panels that must use heat-treated components, ionoplast interlayers and multi-layer assemblies. This invariably produces the optical phenomena anisotropy, which are observable but deemed ‘inevitable’ physical properties inherent to glass fabrication,” said Louis Moreau, Head of Technology & Innovation, AGNORA, a leading glass fabricator with headquarters in Collingwood, Ontario.
To address this phenomenon and establish guidelines for fabricators producing oversize glass, an international group of stakeholders has been established to develop a new ASTM standard test method for anisotropy measurement on glass. This stakeholder group will continue to advance quality control efforts at the fabrication level, and identify and work to resolve issues that could cause aesthetic harm to such projects.
The glazing contractor also has many challenges and responsibilities when it comes to closing the building envelope, not the least of which is the handling of these very large glass surfaces. The glazier has to maneuver large and very heavy pieces of glass from the safety of a rack or crate, into a frame on the building. According to Paul Robinson of Pioneer Cladding and Glazing Systems there are several factors that they need to take into account for installation.
“It starts with assessing whether or not we need special consideration for unloading, storage and handling. Do we need bigger equipment such as bigger forklifts and bigger power cups? Sometimes the day-to-day equipment we utilize can work, but not always. Bottom line, we always lean on the side of safety, so if it’s close we are not taking chances.”
Safety is a major priority at the fabrication level as well.
“A huge preoccupation for us is safety. As the units get larger, we have to ensure the proper equipment is used; training and restrictions are required to guarantee the safety of our employees,” said Tim Kelley, President and Owner, Tristar Glass, a major glass fabricator with locations in Catoosa (Tulsa), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Grand Prairie (Dallas), and Houston, Texas.
We mentioned earlier this is a growth market, but how important a segment is it? According to the architects we interviewed, the majority of those polled pegged the usage between 10-15% of the market.
The oversized glass trend is here and it’s real. Three of the major entities involved with this market activity all have a solid grasp of what’s happening with its usage. The design advantages featuring light and comfort, the need for quality and safety and the overall understanding of what has to happen to install these products with the utmost of success. More and more projects will feature massive spans of glass, and these stakeholders will be more than ready to answer the call.