Experts Weigh In: Are Glass Buildings on Their
March 12, 2010
Are the days of the all-glass buildings numbered? That was the
question posed in a recent article published online in Architect
HERE to read the full article). According to the article, Glazed
buildings, including the Gherkin, could become pariahs
by 2050 because of their inability to cope with climate change and
dwindling resources such as power and water.
The article notes that Alan Short, head of architecture at Cambridge
University, says global warming and other factors including
the ageing population would result in a huge program of retrofitting
as well as radically different forms of architectural expression.
Short is also quoted as saying, "There is a huge challenge
for the construction industry and designers ... the idea of making
buildings out of glass is going to become a historical phenomenon.
Buildings that use huge amounts of energy and big glass office buildings,
will be pariah buildings. People won't want to rent them. Will the
Gherkin still be standing? Well, no names, but I do think that is
going to be a big issue."
But experts in the glass industry do not have the same perspective.
Glenn Heitmann, president and chief executive officer of Heitmann
& Associates, a St. Louis-based curtainwall consultant, says
that while in the United States construction of monumental structuresregardless
of the building skinhas gone by the wayside since 9/11, and
probably will not return, the use of glass is a trend that is here
Tremendous strides in the energy efficiency of glass have
been made and [manufacturers] continue to improve the glass,
says Heitmann. Plus, people want light in their homes and
buildings, so I do not see that changing.
In addition, Heitmann points out that in some parts of the world,
including Europe, energy costs are much higher than they are in
the United States, and there they use a lot of double-skin
designs, which also use a lot of glass.
Greg Carney, president of C.G. Carney and Associates in Gulfport,
Miss., notes that there are curtainwall projects in the United States,
such as the Lever House, completed in 1952 and located in New Yorkwhich
has been dubbed the pioneer curtainwall skyscraperas well
as the Seagram Building, completed in 1958 and also in New York,
which have withstood the test of time.
Though upgraded to some degree, they are still occupied today
and are architectural landmarks, says Carney. I think
we will continue to see interest in natural light; metropolitan
facilities may undergo retrofitting to upgrade the glazing infill,
but I dont think this will be demolished.
Carney also points out that there are a lot of opportunities right
now in the glazing retrofit market, but a challenge could be the
buildings design and the fact than many were constructed with
If the weight of the structure was designed for monolithic
glass it may not be able to handle the weight of an insulating glass
unit, says Carney.
Contract glaziers also see glass as an efficient, viable building
Todays more sophisticated architectural glazing products
attempt to balance the demands of aesthetic appearance, energy conservation
and building occupants comfort, says Linda J. Vos-Graham,
president of Vos Glass in Grand Rapids, Mich. There are more
options than ever before for those who make decisions regarding
glazing design and product selection. These decisions can make a
tremendous difference in project cost, energy efficiency and environmental
And its not just those in the United States who agree that
glass structures are here to stay. So, too, does Roy Offland with
Float Glass Industries Ltd. in Manchester, England. Offland shared
his personal opinion with USGNN.com. He says that while some
may think the worst and single out glass buildings as being totally
out of favor by 2050, they are not taking into consideration all
of the progress made by the glass industry to meet the demands for
more efficient windows.
Look at the gains in the last ten years alone, and with energy-producing
windows already in prospect, the story could prove to be quite the
opposite to Shorts view, says Offland. Is it not
curious that just a few weeks after the tallest building in the
world was finished in glass in Dubai, with its obvious testament
to human nature, that some experts are prepared to think we are
ever going to change - I don't think so.
Offland adds, When you read about all the new renewable
energies being developed around the world and youre also told
that 400 billion barrels of oil are waiting to be extracted from
old wells in the United States alone, I find it very hard to believe
that 'Armageddon' is truly in sight but, for sure, the glass industry
will not back off the challenges anyway. The days of glass just
keeping out the wind and rain are ancient history--that is a fact.
Need more info and analysis about the issues?
HERE to subscribe to USGlass magazine.