Simon Boocock of CRL Europe discusses how advances in installation technology are making glass facades easier and quicker to install without putting people at risk
All-glass buildings are a common sight in urban areas, making a dramatic architectural statement. Glass is a popular facade choice for commercial and increasingly domestic buildings too, being chosen as much for its practical qualities as for the aesthetic advantages it offers. In any building where a feeling of openness, plus brightness and views of the outside world are important, glass is likely to be the predominant material used for the exterior cladding. The reasons for this become clear as soon as the advantages of this material are analysed: glass combines light, transparency and appearance with practical features such as thermal insulation, solar control, acoustics, fire protection, safety and security. On top of this is the physical versatility of glass – it can work alongside virtually any other material and within any landscape. While the results of specifying glass for building facades are visually and practically beneficial, installing glass to building exteriors is of course not without its challenges. The use of appropriate systems and solutions that ensure safety of the installers and end users while enabling a quick, seamless installation is vital. First of all, consider how the glass will be fitted: if it is to be fitted from the outside of the building, scaffolding will be required. This not only increases the installation time but it also adds costs to the project and makes the whole process somewhat trickier than if the facade can be installed from inside the building.
Wet fit systems are also time consuming and messy to fit, usually requiring cement to hold them firmly in place, while systems with vast amounts of architectural hardware not only remove some of the aesthetic benefits of the glass, but can also prove heavy, cumbersome and a chore to install, particularly when working at awkward angles or at a height. Luckily, advances in installation technology are making installation a lot easier, quicker and more straightforward, while not putting installer or user safety at risk. One solution is to use a special clip design system that fixes the individual glass panels in place without the requirement for glass cut-outs, to create a protective and attractive envelope around the building which is very straightforward to install compared to conventional methods. Suitable for use on new builds or for regenerating an existing building, these create a modern impression with a highly durable and long-lasting finish, providing a breathable barrier that protects the original material of the building while still retaining its visibility.
Spider fittings and standoffs are alternative options for creating modern buildings with all the qualities of glass, yet make ‘all-glass’ walls installation easier, as they can usually be fastened directly to steel, concrete or wood – protecting the building against weather and air pollution while still enabling the original materials to be seen. This is a popular option for refurbishment projects as it helps create the high-end and contemporary look often seen on new structures such as airports and hotels.
Frameless glass is also in demand for use on balconies on high-rise buildings, becoming an increasingly popular option for apartment buildings as an attractive and functional solution. The same issues over installation apply here of course, making the need for systems that can be fitted safely and to time just as vital. Providing a fast and safe way to install glass balustrades, a dry-glazed system will eradicate the need for cement and scaffolding and can usually be installed from the ‘safe side’ or in other words internally, for added safety. Such systems tap into the big trend for frameless glass on the exterior of buildings and result in an improved aesthetic with minimal fuss.
Simon Boocock is managing director at CRL Europe