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The Use of Glass in Architectural Design

Aug. 30, 2017

The Louvre Pyramid. The Glass House. The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. The Kimbell Art Museum. Each of these buildings – creations of some of the world’s most influential architects – engages with natural light in its own way, using glass to create specific shafts of light or using reflective materials to bend natural light in a way that suits the interior environment. Reverence for daylight is alive in today’s architecture, too. Many new buildings are designed with glass to provide access to natural light and outdoor views. Designing with glass provides several benefits in addition to daylight, including reduced reliance on overhead lighting and the appearance of a more spacious indoor environment.    

Good architecture is designed to invite ample natural light from the sun into the built environment. Architects take into account many factors, such as the building site, existing nearby structures, the building’s end use and its sustainability goals, in creating an efficient way to connect the interior to the natural world. Both active and passive daylighting techniques help bring daylight indoors.  

Passive daylighting takes into consideration how the sun moves throughout the day in respect to the building design and the building orientation. This includes strategies for orienting the building and designing the proper arrangement of windows and doors, known as fenestration, to maximize the building’s relationship to the sun. The strategic placement of glass windows, skylights and other static light-collecting features is crucial to creating interior spaces that do not rely entirely on artificial lighting. Passive daylighting also takes into account where unfettered access to the sun may not be prudent, such as on the building’s Western-facing façade, where sunlight is often strongest.

Active daylighting, on the other hand, is the process of tracking and collecting sunlight throughout the day using a mechanical solar tracking system, with either sensors or logic controls. For example, one active daylighting technique is the use of a mechanical system designed to follow the sun with a set of mirrors to direct natural light into the building.

Daylight is essential for creating a comfortable, healthy space. According to The Business Case for Green Building Report from the World Green Building Council, people with access to daylight in the office environment are 18 percent more productive. Moreover, people with views and a connection to the outdoors have a 10-25 percent better mental function and memory. Using glass is a way to invite daylight while also fostering a visual connection between building occupants and the outside world.

With all of the benefits daylight provides, there are also the drawbacks of increased heat gain and glare from the sun. Dynamic fenestration systems can automatically control the building envelope in response to environmental factors. SageGlass provides the daylighting and outdoor views sought by many architectural designers, yet it controls the amount of sunlight that penetrates the building’s interior at any given time throughout the day. The use of SageGlass precludes the need for a conventional interior shading system, which can block views and collect dust.

SageGlass, with zoning innovation, can divide and control each glass pane into three independent zones. This unique advancement provides smarter control, making it possible to tint only areas of glass that cause direct glare and provide sufficient and balanced natural daylight even at glare hours. To learn how to incorporate SageGlass into your building design, contact us today.