Over the past few years, there has been something of a revolution in architecture and design, particularly when it comes to the extension market. Glass and glazing have started to become not only more popular, but intrinsic and fundamental to designs. Particularly among high-net-worth residential projects, but also in the commercial sector, glass is ‘in’.
But why is this the case? How did we get to stage where luxury and modernity were synonymous with glazing, and what has contributed to the revolution in structural glazing in particular? Let’s take a look...
Natural light and wellbeing
As a western society, we’ve never been more concerned with our wellbeing. We’re more informed, aware, and conscious of what makes us feel how we feel on a daily basis. This has extended beyond the traditional realms of diet and exercise, and moved into everything from meditation to architecture. The buildings we live in directly impact how we feel - and we’re designing them with this in mind.
A big element of this is natural light, and that means glazing. The amount of glass, and thus natural light, that features in a space, the more conducive that space is to positive wellbeing. Structural and frameless glass in particular features almost totally unobstructive design, and allows the most light in.
As a result, these kind of installations and solutions have dramatically risen in popularity, as clients designing extensions or new buildings are turning to glass as a way to inject a little ‘wellbeing’ into their projects.
It’s also important to note that wellness has become somewhat tied into the concept of modern luxury. Luxury is more about experiences and lifestyle than it is material goods, and those with the budget to make large, fundamental changes to their property are more often looking for these kind of aspects in their designs.
Endless Design Possibilities
One of the most basic reasons why structural glazing has become so much more popular is the fact that it now offers so much more potential. There are, simply put, so many more things we can achieve with structural glazing compared with even a few short decades ago, and the result is a widespread adoption of these innovative new designs.
The restrictions that once governed designs (such as the need for structural supports made from metal, and of a certain width) no longer apply in the same way, and new innovations such as silicone binding and switchable glass open new doors of potential.
Frameless glazing, curved glass, UV glass… the list goes on. What this means is that inspiration, creativity, and originality can become central to designs which heavily feature glazing. People see what can be achieved with glass, and a snowball effect has ensued where those with the money to spend on elaborate structures know that the sky's the limit.
As the saying goes, ‘if you build it, they will come’ - and now we can build it, they are coming in droves.
Possibilities for architects
This new era of possibility doesn’t just apply to homeowners and facilities managers, but to architects too. In fact, this new scope for design applies even more prolifically to architects. Firms of all sizes and levels of experience are now able to put together proposals and plans with the kind of glazing that was once not even possible - and this means there is a lot more glazing being used.
This is particularly true for luxury extensions, and new builds. In the past, architects were more restricted to standalone glazing installations such as glass floors - which, while beautiful, were more like ‘features’ than intrinsic design elements.
Now, with the expansion of possibility when it comes to glazing, glass can be used as a construction material in and of itself, and specialist structural glazing suppliers have emerged to cater to an audience with a more bespoke sensibility.
The result? Architects are working with these suppliers more regularly, because people want the kind of glazing that these specialists create. As more projects like these emerge, these relationships are only going to develop, and more specialists emerge. The kind of installations these clients look for don’t just feature a skylight, or a sliding glass door. They feature glass walls, embedded minimal windows, and glass roofs that connect seamlessly to these with glass struts and silicone.
New builds, too, are becoming tied into this kind of structural design. From the early conceptual stages, architects are able to consider the role of glazing in a building as more than just an ‘add on’, and this means as new structures are designed and built, the amount of glass we use has increased.
A Unique Aesthetic
This one might seem obvious, but for both the residential and commercial markets, this is absolutely fundamental - structural glazing, put very simply, looks great. When it comes to luxury design, frameless minimal glazing has become part and parcel, and it is this aesthetic that has driven such a rise in popularity over recent years.
With such a visual impact, structural glazing is one of the most effective tools in the architect’s/designer’s arsenal. Slimline designs, sleek frames, and a seamless connection to the outside world have been attracting more and more clients with the disposable income to make these visions a reality, and as a result, structural glazing has exploded.
Our impact on the environment is a hot topic at the moment, and more of us than ever before are taking our ecological impact very seriously. This is having a knock on into all walks of life, including our shopping, eating habits, travel routines and more. It’s also massively affecting our choices when it comes to building design, with ‘wellness architecture’ becoming increasingly popular in recent years.
At the centre of this is natural light and glazing - glass now offers extremely efficient insulative properties, reducing the amount of energy (and thus emissions) the building consumes during its use. For this reason, structural glass with double, triple, and even quadruple glazing has become increasingly popular.
It ticks both the boxes of environmental practicality and beautiful aesthetic. It’s like the architectural equivalent of a salad that tastes exactly like pizza.
It’s always tough to say exactly where architecture will take us next, but the structural glass revolution seems here to stay. For the foreseeable, glazing will remain an integral part of modern construction in all areas of the industry - we might not know precisely what the build world will look like years from now, but we can say with some certainty that it’s going to be crystal clear.