Clear Guidance on Glass

Modern glass processing can help address a number of construction challenges. Susan Sinden, Commercial Manager of ESG Group, explains why consulting your glass processor’s technical design team before specifying can give you a clear advantage.

When toughened glass was first introduced, the fact that it would shatter into small granular fragments, which fall to the ground without causing much harm, made the potential use of glass in building design much more desirable, especially for balustrades and larger expanses of glazing. The introduction of toughened laminated glass, however, also made more structural elements a practical proposition.

Therefore, when you are designing a property, or interpreting an architect’s concept, it is well worth talking to your glass processor. Their technical design team may be able to suggest ways in which many construction challenges can be met, especially with the use of specialist interlayers.

To create toughened laminated glass, we use a range of specialist PVB (PolyVinyl Butyrall) interlayers, which are introduced when bonding the panes together permanently. With the considerable additional strength which lamination brings, we have been able to increase panel sizes, and can now produce glass panels of several metres in height and width. These panels can be joined unobtrusively, to produce large expanses of seemingly uninterrupted glass, allowing the architect even more scope.

Your glass processor will certainly be able to advise and explain how glass can be used, particularly as a structural element. Although you will still need the advice of a structural engineer for any load bearing items, a technical glass design expert will be able to explain how challenges can be overcome by using the most appropriate glazing product.

By laminating sheets of varying thicknesses, or more than two sheets together, we can now create extremely robust products which can be used as structural elements. Fixings for these can also be embedded in the interlayers, so that when bespoke glass panels are created to specified sizes, there is no need for further cutting or drilling. This is particularly effective for stair treads and shelving, which can appear to float once installed. Robust glass products can be used for floors, particularly mezzanines and walkways, allowing light to flood through. This added strength has also made glass lift shafts and scenic lifts a possibility.

The technical design team may be able to suggest further added benefits. For example, we can use technical interlayers to provide sound attenuation. This is in addition to strength, not in place of it. In settings which require confidentiality, or in urban areas with associated noise nuisance, this is a huge advantage, providing noise reduction while maximising natural light.

We can also provide privacy. A switchable LCD privacy interlayer allows a glass panel to be either transparent or opaque as required. When a small electric current is passed through the interlayer, particles inside it line up to allow light to pass through, making the panel see-through. When the current is switched off, the particles in the interlayer align randomly, so that light can no longer pass through, making it opaque. Thus, the glass can be clear or opaque, quite literally at the touch of a button. This is a perfect solution for clinics and consulting rooms, but also for boardrooms and, increasingly, in domestic settings too.

Toughened laminated security glass, which passes the standards for EN356 manual attack resistant glass, is capable of withstanding multiple blows from heavy objects or weapons. This is increasingly popular in shop fronts and jewellery counters, or in screens which protect bank employees. We can also produce laminated glass which passes the tests for ISO 16933:2007, which governs the standards for blast resistant glass; ideal for use in airports and rail stations.

Traditionally, fire resistance has been the province of opaque materials, but now glass can be used for that purpose too. Your glass processor can give technical design advice about the use of fire-resistant glass, such as ESG Pyrotech, which is classified in accordance with the amount of time that it delays the spread of fire, tested to 30 minutes or 60 minutes of resistance.

Using interlayers is extremely versatile in that we are not restricted to adding one characteristic only; we can incorporate several. Fire resistance, for example, can also be combined with properties such as security, sound attenuation or privacy. We can even add colour and other decorative effects. By using multiple interlayers in a single bespoke glass product, we can address several, so, although a bespoke glass product might sound more expensive, it can prove highly cost effective in place of a raft of other individual approaches.

Glass processing technology has advanced enormously, so you may be surprised by the knowledge and experience of the processor’s technical design team, who will be able to provide a tailored solution for almost any application that you can imagine.

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