Interior Glass: Creating Mood through High-Tech Functionalities
A wide range of on-trend options enables glass in interior design to offer an innovative alternative to wood, metal or stone.
Stairs, partitions, furniture, wall panels, banisters and parapets—the use of glass in a house knows no limits. Glass provides an unlimited range of design possibilities for architects, as well as interior and furniture designers, due to its interplay with light, reflections, transmission, colors, and textures. This variety of on-trend options enables glass in interior design to offer an innovative alternative to wood, metal or stone. The glass industry caters to the growing demand by providing a multitude of solutions for designing interiors.
Architects face difficult tasks. On the one hand, the need is growing for glass façades to bring light into the building and make it look more representative. The problem, however, is that buildings with a glass shell will quickly heat up during the summer; innovative glass products must be used intelligently to avoid the need for energy-intensive air-conditioning. On the other hand, the know-how and creativity of architects are also increasingly in demand when designing a building’s interior. Thanks to its versatility, high level of functionality and safety, glass plays a steadily increasing role and replaces more conventional materials such as metal or stone.
“Interior applications are increasingly significant for the glass market,” said Jochen Grönegräs, general manager of the German Federal Association of Flat Glass Manufacturers. “Our figures say that approximately half the total quantity of single-pane safety glass sold in Germany and almost a quarter of all laminated safety glass is used for interiors.”
Manufacturers have developed processing methods and modern designs that enable them to offer a highly diverse design glass portfolio, ranging from tempered safety glass to laminated safety glass and insulating glass. After the glass has gone through the cutting, edge-processing, drilling and form-shaping stages of CNC processing, it is individually designed depending on the customer’s wishes and the intended location (e.g., lacquered glass is used for kitchen back walls, wall panels or furniture fronts). Screen printing and digital printing offer excellent opportunities for tailor-made designs of flat glass or for applying decorative motifs. Colored foil integrated in laminated safety glass can bathe a location in a special light and create an appropriate ambience for any location. Sandblasted glass offers further design possibilities for decors, as well as images or patterns. And UV bonding can create a variety of three-dimensional glass constructions for the furniture industry, as well as store and exhibition construction.
The newest products in the field of decorative glazing include the Fluid line of design glass by Saint-Gobain Glass. Its special feature is a three-dimensional effect, which the company attributes to an innovation in its glass production. In contrast to traditional cast glass, embossed glass sections alternate with transparent areas. The flowing structure permits smooth horizontal and vertical glass cuts for further processing to tempered safety glass or laminated safety glass, as well as a wide range of other applications in insulation glass and interior design.
Not only is the glass new, but so is the inspiration for the innovation; Fluid was designed by a young team of designers developing a design glass line inspired by natural structures. “Fluid combines a unique design and a fascinating spatial effect and sets new standards for design glass,” according to a representative from Saint-Gobain Glass Deutschland GmbH. “It lends rooms to a special character and invites you to experiment. It therefore is an attractive high-quality alternative to frosted glass.”
Design patterns can be used both horizontally and vertically to create different effects depending on their direction. The glass suggests a depth of material that turns it into a design object in its own right. As a result, it is an ideal material for a new architectural trend: design glass in facades.
AGC Interpane, a strategic alliance of Interpane and AGC Glass Europe, extended its product range of design glasses with new lacquered glass products; Lacobel and Matelac 2020 is the name of the new double range of lacquered glazing. As the name suggests, the design glass varieties are available in 20 different colors.
“The combination of glossy and matte glass surfaces in matching colors widens the design options for interior walls and furniture,” said Marc Everling, director of Marketing and Communications at AGC Interpane.
The new colors are available in the Classics, Trendies, and Exclusives product lines, which are meant to make the design of material combinations with wood, stone, or metal more intuitive. Architects, designers and furniture producers are also given opportunities for an individual configuration of the colors.
Economic Custom Designs
The Schollglas company has also specialized in design glass and, among others, offers Gewe-art, a digitally printed and powder coated float glass coming in 20 different motif options and permitting individual design and color schemes. The company says that Gewe-art is not only easy to clean and scratch resistant, but also shows excellent UV resistance, high abrasive strength, and high condensation resistance. Consequently, it can be used anywhere in the house as a tabletop or worktop, partition or wall paneling, and even for shop fitting and exhibition construction.
At the same time, the company actively optimizes its finishing technologies in view of further increases in the quality of its products and reduced production costs. Glass for interiors is already competitive to other materials, according to Carsten Heuer, the company’s managing director. “Surface finishing, screen printing or digital prints, various curving technologies and the high performance and extremely flexible use of machinery for highly efficient edge processing in the group enable serial production, as well as an economic production of single units,” he said.
Lighting and Light Control
Intelligent architectural glass is another opportunity for creating effects through the interplay of light, brilliance and transparency. Aled technology employed by Austria-based Lightglass Technology enables such a product, fulfilling technical requirements for interior and exterior applications; a light-conducting layer in the laminated glass turns a simple window, partition or façade into a light source. The company claims that its technology combines the transparency of traditional windows and a completely homogeneous and glare-free lighting of glass. In addition, the system is self regulated and adjusts to the current lighting situation. The whole system is controlled and programmed with a mobile app or the facility’s control systems.
Façades equipped with so-called electrochromic windows have an impact on the lighting (i.e., a room’s atmosphere). Thanks to integrated nanoparticles, the glass automatically adjusts to the lighting conditions and blocks out sunlight so that rooms do not heat up too much or get too bright. German manufacturer Econtrol-Glas has developed electrochromic windowpanes, for example, that switch from the lightest to the most intensive tinting within 20-25 min. In a dimmed condition, only 12% of the sunlight gets through, while the rest is reflected by the particles. Across Europe, Econtrol-Glas has equipped various office buildings, residential buildings and public buildings with its windows.
Merck, the German science and technology group, pursues a different variation of switchable glass. It has invested 15 million (approximately $15.8 million) in the development and production of windowpanes that reportedly react faster to changing light than comparable switchable glass solutions. In its development, Merck uses a mixture of the liquid crystals also used in the displays of TV sets, laptops or smartphones. The technology produces two effects, according to Martin Zitto, Business Development manager at Merck: it darkens the glass as a protection against sunlight, and makes it appear opaque and non-transparent to guarantee privacy.
Even if the technological basis is different than in other switchable glasses, all liquid crystal glass works in a similar way: the mixture is filled between two glass panes bonded with an adhesive. By applying a certain voltage, the crystals can be arranged in different configurations. Depending on the configuration, more or less light will penetrate the layer so that the windows are either transparent or opaque. The company plans to start manufacturing these liquid crystal windowpanes in a new production plant at the end of 2017.
glasstec 2016 Highlights
At glasstec 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, attendees were able to see the innovations developed by interior and facade specialists and get information on the most important trends. The Lightglass company showed examples for using its Aled technology in residential and corporate buildings at the “glass technology live” show organized by the University of Stuttgart. The special show focused on glasses of the future. Among other things, it presented innovations from the area of electrochromic glass, interactive glass as a carrier material for information and electronics, and glass varieties with special features such as glass with innovative coatings or self-luminous glass.
“glass technology live” was accompanied by a specialist symposium with lectures and presentations on current research and practical applications. Renowned representatives from the glass industry, architecture and science showed the versatility of glass as a material using the examples of current or unfinished architectural projects. The program was completed by the Materia special show. With its theme “Great material for great architecture,” Materia presented the newest applications, products and materials for the architectural sector.
glasstec 2018 will be held October 23-26 in Düsseldorf, Germany. For more information, visit www.glasstec-online.com.