Shining a light on solar control glass

Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington UK, explains some of the misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding the use of solar control glass.

A recent study we carried out found that three in five (61%) glass and glazing installers have seen increased demand for solar control products over the last five years.

Sitting behind this growing demand is a multitude of factors. New Building Regulations, high energy costs and climate change were cited in our research as the top reasons driving specifications for the advanced glass.

The UK market for solar control glass, which is less mature than those in hotter climates, looks promising. The ability of coated glass to help prevent overheating in buildings supports architects and specifiers as they seek sustainable ways of controlling internal temperatures.

But as with any market on the rise, misconceptions and misunderstandings among decision makers, consumers, opinion formers and the supply chain need to be allayed for it to meet its full potential.

Encouragingly, solar control glass was widely reported as a solution for tackling overheating in homes during July’s heatwaves, a sign that the product is increasingly stepping into the mainstream for use in residential buildings in the UK.

But a portion of this coverage carried one of the biggest misconceptions about the product.

Some warned that while solar control glass can help to keep rooms cooler in warm weather, reducing demand on air conditioning systems, it lacked the low-emissivity performance that’s essential for energy efficiency in the winter.

This might be true for low-performance products, but ranges like Pilkington Suncool offer a good variety of solutions that deliver both solar control and low emissivity performance, helping to control internal climates year round.

It’s part of a wider misunderstanding that solar control performance can’t be combined with other glazing functionality, such as noise control, or self-cleaning properties. Yet advancements in coating technology have long helped manufacturers to overcome this issue.

Speaking with building design professionals, there also remains some misunderstandings about tints and light transmittance.

Bronze and blue tints are very popular among architects overseas, but less so here in the UK. That’s why we provide a full range of neutral colours for our solar control portfolio. Meanwhile, products like Pilkington Suncool 70/35 will typically block 37% of the sun’s energy while allowing for a high level of light transmittance, at 70%.

Greater attention on solar control glass has revealed some misunderstandings within the glass and glazing supply chain too.

Some have been surprised that we manufacture solar control glass in the UK, providing better lead times and availability for customers. It’s the result of significant investment in our off-line coater, and for almost ten years we have producing high performance Pilkington Suncool coatings at our base in St Helens.

Indeed, it’s understandable that many believe that it’s not necessary to manufacture such a product in a temperate climate like the UK.

Yet, increasingly occurring heatwaves and alarming new temperature records are driving many to futureproof buildings, including residential properties, with solutions like solar control glass.

What’s more, new regulations are also set to drive further specifications of solar control glass, as policymakers act to combat the threat of overheating in homes while reducing demand on energy-intensive cooling systems.

The specification of advanced materials will help building design professionals to meet the challenge of reducing reliance on heating and air conditioning, while making buildings safer and more comfortable amid increasingly extreme weather.

Solar control glass is one effective solution that will help the industry to meet both requirements.

Consultation with supply chain partners through to architects to inform and educate about the modern day offering of solar control solutions will help to drive new opportunities in the supply of value-added glass for the sector, while creating a safer and sustainable built environment sooner rather than later.