Visionary Glass

When specifying glazing in construction projects, there are now many opportunities to address more than one issue, as Susan Sinden, Marketing Manager for glass processor ESG Group, explains.

Laminated toughened glass, made by sandwiching sheets of toughened glass together with a PVB (PolyVinyl Butyrall) interlayer, has opened up a host of possibilities for the specifier, in partitions, balustrades and facades, plus a range of other practical applications. The added strength that the laminating process gives has allowed us to create taller, wider and lighter-weight glass panels, which can be used to realise even the most challenging of architectural concepts.

In toughened laminated glass such as ESG Tufflam, using different types of interlayer, we can now introduce a range of added benefits such as privacy, sound reduction, security, and even ballistic protection.

LCD privacy glass, such as ESG Switchable glass, is rapidly gaining popularity in both domestic and commercial settings due to its ability to transform from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button. Using a specialised technical interlayer, a small electric current is run through the glass panel to make the panel optically clear, while switching off the current makes the panel opaque. This allows the end user to enjoy complete privacy without sacrificing natural light – an important consideration as energy costs rise. In increasingly popular open plan schemes, LCD privacy, or switchable, glass is often used to zone specific areas, such as boardrooms, bedrooms, ensuites, kitchens and even shower screens. Privacy glass is also used by high end retail and financial outlets as a deterrent to potential thieves and intruders.

We can also introduce sound attenuation properties into glass by using specialist interlayers. In corporate settings, where openness fits with the organisation’s culture, confidentiality for sensitive discussions is still needed, and this can be provided using acoustic glass. In corporate projects we are seeing an increased demand in privacy glass, combined with sound attenuation, for board rooms, breakout rooms and even executive offices, as they offer a ‘best of both worlds’ option.

Meanwhile, in domestic settings, sound attenuating glazing is ideal for urban locations where street noise is an annoyance. Again this can be combined with switchable glass; privacy can be switched on and off at the touch of a button, but the insulation against noise nuisance will remain constant.

A further type of interlayer can be used with thicker sheets of toughened glass to manufacture high security, ballistic, and even blast proof glass, helping to deter would-be criminals and terrorists.

In some settings, such as banks, sound attenuation may be restricted to client interview rooms, while the priority for the main counter is security. To protect bank tellers, it is possible to combine a high security or ballistic interlayer with privacy glass, so that, in the event of a raid, the staff are not only protected from ballistic attack, but also screened from view. It is tangibly more difficult for a would-be raider to threaten a blank screen.

Using this advanced interlayer technology, we can now manufacture glass panes with almost any combination of properties, such as security, or sound attenuation, with privacy, to produce a multi-functional product, tailored to each specific project. This can help to control costs, by using one product or solution rather than several. Glass also maintains access to natural light, whereas most other solutions will be opaque by nature. Particularly during summer months, the use of natural light can also help to reduce energy costs.

Using CNC technology, we can cut panels to precise shapes for use in older and even listed buildings during renovation projects. This means that even if walls and apertures are far from square, glass can be cut to fit and installed, allowing spaces to be replanned and repurposed in more versatile ways.

Although toughened laminated glass can be damaged and its clarity compromised by fractures, the interlayer holds the fragments of the panel together and in place, retaining a degree of security and reducing the risk of harm from falling glass.

In high security options, although glass may be pushed out of shape, it takes a long time and a high level of tooling to breach, so any perpetrator would either give up or be apprehended before managing to enter the premises.

Thanks to developments in toughened laminated glass processing, there are many options for the specifier to consider; a large range of glass products with more practical characteristics than most construction materials. Glass may have been around for many centuries, but it is still very much a product for the future.

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