A few months back, I came across a list of seven architectural blunders that covered design missteps from the “worrying to the downright absurd.” Shortly after, I saw an infographic titled “Failure by Design.” Reading two pieces that highlighted wayward designs so close together got me thinking: Shouldn’t we focus on learning from past mistakes and designing better buildings, instead of fixating on the errors themselves?
From a glass and framing perspective, experience has taught me the answer is yes. History has helped inform and instruct us to better use glass in building design, from the type of products the industry now offers to how we install them.
Consider how much we’ve learned from increasing the amount of glazing in the building envelope. Buildings with poor thermal performance led to low-emissivity glass, which evolved into spectrally selective low-E glass. Now, hyper-insulating, electrochromic and thermochromic glazing options are entering the field to further improve the energy-efficiency of buildings. Design professionals using these advanced products can better optimize curtain walls and façades.
Glass-enclosed buildings have also brought entirely new problems to light, such as how to prevent bird strikes and effectively communicate user control for operable windows. Without buildings that called into question these limitations, designs would not be able account for performance or occupant comfort in the way they do today.
On the code side, consider the progression of fire-rated glazing products. To meet supporting design goals, it’s become increasingly common to see the hardworking material supplement daylighting, match non-fire-rated glazing systems, provide building compartmentation and act as a focal point—all in one application. As a result of the products’ multifunctionality, the glazing industry has been able to make architects’ and general contractors’ jobs easier.
For each of the advancements above, one or two buildings served as a catalyst for change. While it’s easy to dissect the criticism they’ve received, what’s more important is that all building and design sectors, including glass and framing, have greatly benefited from the chance to evaluate what we can do better.
So, as 2015 fast approaches, let’s use history to move us closer to better glass and framing solutions. Time and experience are excellent teachers. They generate a natural increase in sophistication in buildings over time that ultimately shape the future of glazing. What have they taught you about glass and framing?
Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings, and (past) chairs the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). Contact him at 800/426-0279.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.