We may discover that our wants and desires are close to fruition, or they may even ignite an idea with a manufacturer to make them possible Ian Langham

part in response to ever stringent requirements in energy codes. The big challenge is how to overcome the contradiction of better light transmittance and reducing the solar gain. Today’s standard technology offers more reflective, darker glass than was envisaged but is catching up to make clearer views possible. Looking to tomorrow, current developments in dynamic glass (which change in light transmittance and g-value) are promising innovations, especially for warmer climates. There are different approaches. For example, Merck liquid crystal modules and intelligent glass facades that are linked to the building management system could become more common as their costs reduce. If Schridde were to produce a set of images today, what would our imaginings of the future be? I wonder how much today’s glass developments would feature?

Areas of inspiration could include high-strength, thin glass. It was originally developed in the 1960s for the automotive industry, without great success, but has been revitalised by the smart phone industry. It is yet to be fully utilised within architecture, but can be

useful where weight-saving is important. With rising sea levels around the world, will weight considerations become important for floating houses as they are for ships today? Corning’s latest incarnation of this fusion technology, Willow Glass, offers glass as thin as 0.1 mm, and could facilitate transparent, durable and light- weight fabrics for building envelopes in place of today’s traditional textile and plastic materials.

Although glass sizes have increased dramatically, they are still limited by transport logistics and local site constraints. More intelligent methods of joining panels present another frontier to be explored. Over the last 10 years we have realised increasingly transparent structural glass systems by incorporating fittings within the glass build-up. The holy grail is for all the connections to be transparent. Advances in transparent silicones and adhesives have potential, as does welding of glass seams together. Other transpar- ent materials like PMMA (acrylic) could come to prominence owing to the ability for large panels with invisible joints, although their use is currently hampered by fire resistance and limited solar gain performance.

In the same way that past authors readily offered their visions of the tomorrow, it is important that designers reflect and actively shape our future. We need to continue engaging with suppliers and specialists – we may discover that our wants and desires are close to fruition, or they may even ignite an idea with a manufacturer to make them possible. This dialogue is one of the ingredients which will help our industry to innovate. Who knows? In doing so, the future may not be so far away. 

Ian Langham is associate director at Eckersley O’Callaghan

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ADF MAY 2017

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