Five of the most significant innovations in glass and glazing technology expected in the next 5 years:
We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating – we spend more time talking to architects about glass and glazing specifications than any other materials. With so many actual innovations being obscured by the fog of sales hyperbole and marketing hype, it’s harder than ever for architects to know where to look for some clarity and objectivity – and that means opportunities can be missed. Our goal with these summary overviews is to try and help a bit in that regard.
1. Smart Glass.
Smart Glass, also known as switchable glass, is a type of glass that can change its light transmission properties when an electric current or other stimulus is applied. This technology is expected to become more advanced and widely used in the next 5 years, as it offers significant benefits for energy efficiency, privacy, aesthetics and comfort. There are currently three primary types of Smart Glass – 1) electrochromic 2) Suspended Particle Device (SPD) and 3) Polymer Dispersed Liquid crystal (PDLC). Continued innovations in Smart Glass technology are expected to improve performance, increase sizes and reduce costs, making it more accessible to a broader market. Smart Glass can be used in windows, doors and skylights as well as interior partitions. Maximum size limitations remain the primary obstacle for many projects.
2. Improved Energy Efficiency.
The demand – and need – for higher performance, energy-efficient glazing solutions is relentless as basic code compliance pressures existing glass and glazing technologies, and the fenestration itself, just to meet basic requirements. This is particularly prevalent on the west coast and mountain states as modern windows and doors with large expanses of glass become the norm and regional code compliance for thermal performance tightens further. In the next 5 years, innovations in glass and glazing technology are expected to advance further in pursuit of sustainability and performance goals, making it possible to reduce the energy consumption of buildings while maintaining aesthetics. Improvements in vacuum IGU’s, triple glazing assemblies, glass coatings, insulation, and IGU composition will mean architects and envelope consultants will be sifting through evolving specifications to identify the best glazing solution and value for their project.
3. Enhanced Security.
Safety and security are very understandable topics of conversation with architects when discussing glazing and fenestration specifications. The glass and glazing industry is expected to develop more robust and effective security solutions while existing solutions for high impact or ballistic rated glass spreads from commercial applications into more residential usage. New materials, such as enhanced PVB membranes for laminated glass, are being developed to resist forced entry, fire damage, hurricanes and tornadoes as well as seismic activity. These innovations are expected to provide better protection against natural disasters and man-made threats. Expect to see new specifications referenced as new and existing security options move more conspicuously into architecturally driven residential designs.
4. Lightweight Glass.
As the demand for lightweight and flexible materials continues to grow, glass and glazing technology is expected to evolve to meet this need. New manufacturing processes and materials are being developed to create ultra-thin, lightweight glass that can be used in a wide range of applications from eye wear and packaging through to phone and computer screens and glass bottles. Entirely new types of glass made from titanium and zirconium instead of transparent silicon are already developed for some products and these innovations will find their way into fenestration glazing sooner or later – and that is expected to have a significant impact on both architectural design as well as construction and engineering.
5. Self-Cleaning Glass.
Cleaning glass surfaces is an expensive, challenging and time-consuming task, especially in high-rise buildings or structures with inaccessible elevations. Self cleaning glass has been promoted in the past but was not widely accepted as effective and remained more a marketing tactic than a genuine, practical solution. Research and development into effective self-cleaning solutions formulated around photo catalysis and hydrophilic coatings for example, is on-going so stay tuned but remain skeptical on performance claims for now. We do expect to see specifications emerge for effective solutions that will reduce maintenance costs, provide durability and improve the overall appearance of buildings.
Our brand promise is to share our collective knowledge and experience of architectural fenestration to the benefit of our clients. We mean it – feel free to call or email us if we can help you navigate the labyrinth of glass and glazing in fenestration. In the meantime, take a deep breath and keep on going.