Greenbuild 2013: The benefits of sustainable glass architecture

With more than 60,000 LEED green building projects across the globe, the drive for sustainable building practices is mainstream, but new materials are opening new opportunities. Architects, developers, and contractors have joined the LEED charge to transform the way schools, offices, homes, and health care facilities are designed, constructed, and operated. Nowhere is this clearer than at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held this week in Philadelphia. The conference reveals not only how green building materials encourage a cleaner, more sustainable world, but also how they can generate significant design, economic, and health benefits.

Glass in particular can not only earn LEED points and reduce a building’s environmental footprint, but also produce significant energy and cost savings while providing a more comfortable and productive environment for students, employees, patients, and others. And while it’s highly functional, glass also offers unparalleled design capabilities. Here’s how glass can cut costs, reduce energy use, and enhance design in your green building.


University of Michigan Indoor Football Practice Facility

Schools, hospitals, and even commercial properties are adopting daylighting to more evenly distribute sunlight throughout rooms. From an environmental standpoint, daylighting reduces energy use by limiting the need for artificial lighting, providing advantages for both the environment and budgets.

For example, the University of Michigan used daylighting to cut energy costs by a third in its indoor football practice facility. After installing OKALUX light-diffusing, insulating glass that provided natural daylighting, the building reduced the use of expensive overhead lights because sunlight was diffused throughout the entire facility.

Daylighting not only carries environmental and economic benefits, but also positively impacts building users. Studies have shown that employees exposed to well-diffused natural daylight during the work day are 6 to 12 percent more efficient at completing tasks. Likewise, research has shown that when students learn in environments offering well-diffused natural daylight, test performance improves between 20 and 26 percent. Also, an increase in the amount of daily daylight reduces feelings of malaise and depression, producing a more positive school or work environment that can reduce absenteeism.

Fire-rated doors and windows

Glass has long limited the environmental impact of and expanded design possibilities for the fire-rated walls, doors, and windows that contain fires in commercial buildings.

PYRAN Platinum fire-rated glass-ceramic, for instance, is Cradle-to-Cradle certified and contributes toward earning LEED points to any project due to its sustainable manufacturing process. PYRAN Platinum is produced with 5.7 percent renewable energy and uses an optimized manufacturing process to eliminate energy-intensive post-processing. Use of graywater better preserves local water sources, and PYRAN Platinum glass-ceramic is manufactured without the toxic heavy metals arsenic and antimony.

Besides practical safety requirements and potential environmental benefits, fire-rated glass doors and windows open up environments with more light and a greater sense of space. In schools, they offer teachers and administrators better oversight of students. In offices, they promote transparency and open floor plans. Glass fire doors and windows are both visually appealing as well as a sustainable construction addition.

Heating and shading

Daylighting has undisputed environmental benefits, but shading too offers unique design and environmental advantages. Specialty glasses can filter light to reduce heat transfer from outdoors into buildings. This glass keeps buildings cool during the day while retaining heat at night, ultimately reducing the amount of energy needed to regulate temperatures. Some insulated glasses are manufactured to block sunlight transmission at angles greater than 30 degrees, reducing solar heat gain and, in turn, cooling the interiors of buildings.

OKASOLAR insulated glass with integrated fixed louvers, for example, both daylights and controls light and heat transmission in accordance with the angle of the sun for optimal temperature control. OKASOLAR insulated glass reflects light toward the ceiling at the beginning and the end of the day throughout the year. It reduces the need for electric lighting in the winter months by reflecting the low angle sun into the structure. OKASOLAR insulated glass also provides variable shading that keeps buildings cooler in the summer months while allowing a greater amount of heat gain in the winter months. This lowers heating costs while increasing interior comfort.

Other shading glasses offering variable solar heat gain, such as OKATECH and OKAWOOD insulated glass units, use metal meshes and natural wood in the cavity to optimize comfort and energy usage. By blocking sunlight at high angles, these shading glasses save money on air conditioning, reduce heating costs, and minimize glare.

In addition to environmental benefits, many shading and insulating glasses create distinctive architectural design possibilities. OKAWOOD insulated glass, for instance, offers clear views from inside the building, yet presents a rich wood panel design from the outside.

Genesis Centre_Day

Decorative glass

In addition to its environmental benefits, dichroic glass can literally make a building green. Unlike traditional clear insulated glass, insulated dichroic glass can reduce heat transfer and cut cooling costs through its natural shading abilities, saving energy while adding a singular aesthetic appeal.

Complexes like the Genesis Community Centre in Calgary have utilized insulated dichroic glass to transform the buildings’ exteriors into a multi-colored masterpiece. With insulated dichroic coated glass like SCHOTT NARIMA eco, architects can add multiple colors to a building’s façade that shift depending on the viewing angle.

From its manufacturing process to its energy-saving properties, glass can push traditional buildings toward sustainability. At the same time, it can trim building costs, create more productive environments for students and employees, and expand design possibilities. Stop by our booth (#2513) at Greenbuild on Nov. 20 to 22 to see for yourself the difference glass can make.


(36 Posts)

Hi, I’m Rina Della Vecchia, Marketing Communications Manager for SCHOTT North America. I manage the internal and external marketing and communications efforts for the SCHOTT corporate office, as well as our eight business units. I’ve been a part of the SCHOTT team for more than six years, but before joining the company, I worked in the trade show management industry and prior to that I conducted philanthropy work for the Westchester Philharmonic. I earned my bachelor’s degree from Pace University. On a more personal note, I’m a summer-loving girl and can spends hours on the beach. My husband and I also enjoy spending time outdoors, traveling, and trying new restaurants.

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