Courting the advantages of glass

Why is glass such a popular option for commercial premises such as offices, and can its use really help improve employee wellbeing? Simon Boocock, managing director of CRL Europe, takes a look.

Glass is increasingly being specified for a variety of commercial situations, from offices and restaurants to hotels and hospitals. This is unmistakably a material that is being chosen as much for its practical qualities as for the aesthetic advantages it offers.

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. And that is not to mention the physical versatility of glass which can literally be chosen to work alongside any other material and within any setting.

Open-plan offices are a good example of where glass is being used to its full advantage commercially. Making effective use of available floor space and giving the illusion of light and depth in compact situations, research suggests the more access to natural daylight employees have, the better their wellbeing. However, large expanses of space with lots of people in them tend to be noisy and lack privacy. What is required is a way of creating partitions and zoning specific areas, creating quiet areas and improving the overall acoustics.

Glass partitions are increasingly being specified, creating a high-end aesthetic while being a practical way of creating a bright, spacious working environment and enhancing the office’s acoustics. They can also be used to form inner offices, creating a sense of privacy for meetings while still enabling those willing to integrate with the wider setting.

With the right systems, such partitions are straightforward to fit. A dry-glazed system will be mess and hassle-free to fit, for example, keeping disruption to a minimum for the client. Choosing a system with thin profiles means that the architectural hardware will barely be noticed and, when it is opting for an on-trend finish such as matt black, creates a stylish, cohesive look in the modern setting.

Above all, a system designed for office partitions will make installation straightforward, enabling the feeling of openness and light created by large glazed walls simple to achieve in practically any space.

A case in point is the United States Courthouse in Los Angeles, a ten-story, 633,000ft2 facility with 24 courtrooms and 32 justice chambers. Contractors faced strict construction schedules due to its central location in downtown LA, so internally an all-glass dry-wall glazing system was used, practically halving installation time compared to a wet-glaze alternative.

Circulating light throughout the building due to its use on stairways, walkways and on floor ledges overlooking the atrium below, the dry-wall system was straightforward to install with the minimum of fuss and downtime while ensuring safety was always given priority.

The finished structure features a distinct cube-shaped design, with a serrated glass and aluminium facade that adds aesthetic depth, while effectively mitigating solar heat gain. The all-glass aesthetics of the United States Courthouse ensure the flow of daylight is optimised and energy consumption is reduced while creating an open, collaborative working environment.