With so many different glazing solutions on the market, it can be a bit of a challenge to get your head around what’s out there, what it does, and what it can be used for. With so many forward-thinking specialists finding ways to integrate new technology into construction materials, it’s important for contractors to be up to speed with the solutions that are available.
This is particularly true when it comes to glass roofs. Using advanced silicone bonding techniques, glass materials, and other systems, glass roofs are becoming more popular than ever. They offer clients both practical and aesthetic home improvements, but there are a wide array of different types available - here are some of the most significant.
In the most basic sense, glass roofs are split into those that open and those that don’t. Fixed roofs are some of the most popular structural glazing solutions for their relatively easy installation, simplicity, and comparative affordability. They perform the most basic job of a glass roof - to flood an interior space with natural light - consistently, and with no frills attached.
Fixed glass roofs can be broken down (broadly speaking) into two categories:
Single panel glass roofs consist of one panel of glass that has been set into the roof space of a building. The size of the panel itself can vary greatly, which will dictate whether or not a crane is required for installation. Single panel roofs can make use of offset designs, which conceal the framing of the glass within the ceiling itself.
This means that single panel glass roofs can often be the most ‘refined’ option available, visually speaking. They may only serve one purpose, but they serve it with style, and it’s easy to see why they’ve become such a popular option for homeowners looking to add more natural light to their interior spaces.
While single panel roofs remain popular, modern fenestration tools and techniques mean that glass roofs can be extended to almost any degree. By including several panels, glass roofs can run the length of an entire building, and the use of multiple smaller panels can make installation more straightforward, eliminating the need for a crane.
Using silicone bonding techniques (providing the glass panels aren’t too large or heavy), multi-panel fixed glass roofs can also take on the same frameless aesthetic as their simpler, single-framed counterparts. This means that for larger properties and projects, a fixed frameless glass roof is still a viable option.
While sometimes a client will be looking to install a glass roof purely as a means of increasing the amount of natural light in their home or commercial premises, there are occasions when a glass roof can take on a more practical role, and act as an access point - either for inhabitants, or simply for ventilation.
Over several decades, new technology has been developed which has expanded the possibilities for opening glass roofs - they can now be powered or operated in a variety of ways, and they can be custom-designed to serve all kinds of purposes.
A true classic. Hinged glass roofs are simple to operate, easy to understand and install, and are the perfect solution for including a little ventilation as and when it’s required. Even large and heavy glass roofs can feature a hinged design (particularly if they’re powered), making these installations a viable option for contractors working on all kinds of projects.
Sliding glass roofs are usually something a little more ‘special’. Their designs can conceal the framework of the glass, they remove the need for long cables or hinges, and they can operate quickly and silently. They can be built, with multiple panels, to almost any size or specification, making them versatile and flexible.
Pop-up glass roofs
Pop-up glass roofs offer a different take on the traditional ‘opening’ variety. Instead of opening horizontally, these designs open vertically, meaning they can both ventilate and insulate a property easily. They can also take on the totally concealed frameless look of a fixed single panel roof, making them a popular choice for a project which is pursuing luxury aesthetic.
Powered vs. Unpowered
Arguably the most significant difference between the various types of opening glass roof is whether or not they operate via a power source. Powered glass roofs can be integrated with a number of systems including remote controls, touch sensors, and smart home systems, and they’re particularly appropriate when ventilation is the primary purpose of the installation.
Unpowered solutions might not have the same ‘wow’ factor as a touch-controlled motorised roof, but they can offer all of the same benefits at a far lower cost. These kinds of installations are useful when the roof will act as an entry point, to an area such as a rooftop garden.
As specialists further hone their skills, and new tools and techniques are developed, the ways in which glass installations can be designed have expanded greatly - and this has meant it’s easier than ever for a glazing specialist to design and install a completely bespoke glass roof for a client.
While ‘out of the box’ solutions will undoubtedly remain popular, it’s worth noting that custom designs are becoming increasingly accessible, if not expected, among many architects. Rather than seeing glass roofs as a simple installation purely to be included as a source of light, architects and designers are considering how they can make these kinds of glazing products integral to the practical and visual experience of an environment. A closer and more collaborative approach with contractors is more important than ever.
Different types of glass
Importantly, it’s not just the types of roofs that are available that have expanded in recent years, but the types of glass too. Glazing technology now exists to facilitate everything from improved insulation or greater visual clarity, to bomb-resistant and water-repellent surfaces.
While these can be applied to almost any glass installation, a couple of types of glazing in particular are relevant to glass roofs:
Water-resistant, or ‘hydrophobic’ coatings are one of the most popular technologies to include with a glass roof, because these solutions are often horizontal, and their location or positioning can make them difficult to clean. Hydrophobic coatings treat the glass to repel water, so that any rain or other liquid that collides with the glass can’t settle and leave a stain.
Passive low-e coatings
Low emissivity glass has become extremely popular for use in glass roofs because of the superior insulative quality it has over more traditional, standard variants. Passive low-e glazing maximises the amount of solar heat gain into an interior space, by preventing heat from escaping - thus reducing the need for artificial heating. When installed on a glazed roof, which usually has the most consistent access to sunlight, this can be an effective way to keep a property warm.