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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday August 23 2015

When I first started noticing new architecture about fifty years ago, glass figured prominently in the ravings of Modernist propagandists, being the means by which buildings made themselves transparent and thereby proclaimed their structural honesty and modernity.

This same glass was routinely hated by those obliged to live or work behind it.  Glass was the means by which unfortunate inmates of Modernism were fried in the summer, frozen in the winter, or had their skirts looked up through by passing oglers.  The heating and air-conditioning bills could be stupendous.  Often, inmates shoved cardboard behind this glass, to diminish its worst impacts.  Glass in modernistic buidings regularly got broken, often deliberately, not least because first generation modern buildings, at any rate in the UK, often brought out the worst in those subjected to it.

How times have changed, by which I mean: how glass has changed.  It is far more varied now, far more cleverly made, far stronger and less breakable, and far more carefully used in buildings.  Which is not surprising given that glass has only grown in importance, and in the percentage of the surface area of buildings that it now covers.

What follows is the whole of a short report, by Chris Jarvis of Sheppard Robson, of a round table conversation in which he participated last May, about the use of glass in building, organised by the Architect’s Journal.

The prose is sometimes rather businessy and clunky, but I found the content fascinating:

Design process

The conversation was focused on the specification of high-performance glazing. More specifically, how fundamental changes within the industry – which include shifts in legislation and the drive for efficiency in our built environment – have resulted in the specification of glass being determined much earlier in the design process.

Glazing is no longer an adjunct that is decided upon once a concept design is complete and planning has been granted. Issues such as orientation, shading and air-tightness need to be considered in the early stages of projects along with the specification of the glass to ensure the target energy performances can be met. Rigorous energy modelling is also important to enable the right glazing option to be chosen for project, site and client.

Availability of data

One of the key challenges in the specification process is the availability of the necessary rigorous data on materials. Currently, there is a feeling across the industry that the level of detailed product information is not readily available across the board. This provokes the question of how can technology be harnessed to collate the necessary technical performance and cost data - which architects, façade engineers and contractors can use - to make the right choices earlier in the process.

New products

A holistic approach needs to be taken to assess all of the above criteria and select the most appropriate single, double or triple glazed units to meet the performance requirements, whilst staying within budget. Triple glazing is not currently a widely used material to boost performance, mostly due to the cost of the product. However, over the next few years this is likely to change: as triple glazing products become more widely used and technology develops to decrease the weight of the product, it will become more viable for projects and client budgets.

However, the use of more advanced, highly tuned technology requires more monitoring after completion to access the efficiency of the product over the lifespan of the building. Currently, rigorous data of how glazing performs after 10 and more years does not exist; how can new products help the industry close the ‘performance gap’ and alert us to poorly performing glass that is ultimately having a major impact on the efficiency of our built environment.

I chanced upon this at the Sheppard Robson website after photoing one of their buildings, the new headquarters of the Salvation Army, near St Paul’s, and then looking that up on the www:

imageimage

It looks good, even if custom build HQs often spell trouble for the organisations which move into them.

While I’m on the subject of glass, several incoming emails have wanted to be sure that I had clocked this:

image

That’s a swimming pool made of glass.  I yearn to photo oligarchical mistresses frolicking about in it, but, no chance.  This will be inside a very gated community, in the vicinity of the new US Embassy in Battersea.  I am optimistic, however, that we might all eventually catch a glimpse of such a thing in a James Bond movie, complete with frolicking oligarchical mistresses.

The above picture, and further details, here.