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Green glass houses: incorporating windows into a building eco solution

Many new buildings tend to use a lot of glass and large windows in their construction. While it is undeniably a major architectural trend of the last decade, glass-centric building design isn’t just an aesthetic fad. Glass forms the central part of many energy-efficient and ‘green’ buildings due to its wholly environmentally-friendly life cycle. Glass can be made fully recyclable, therefore it can be environmentally friendly from its creation; to its use and installation, and to its eventual disposal. With the development of technologies such as solar control glass, the possibilities for glass in eco-buildings are seemingly endless. Today we’re going to explore some of the ways you can use glass installations to build an energy-efficient, clean, green building.

Temperature management and energy regulation

This is one you’re probably already aware of, but windows play a key role in heat and energy management. If you’ve ever been cold-called by a double-glazing salesman, you’ll know this is one of the key selling points of double-glazing. Dodgy sales tactics aside, this is actually a salient point. By installing the right glass and window technology solutions, you can maximise your building’s energy efficiency. Many of us like to think of glazed windows as being useful mostly in winter, helping to insulate warmth and keep heating bills down. However, energy efficiency isn’t the only benefit.

Using glass as the main exterior construction material can massively benefit a building’s eco credentials. Take the example of the planned Lakhta Center in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Lakhta Center will be the tallest building in Europe and Russia. While the area doesn’t have a particularly cold climate relative to the rest of Russia, the building’s height and the harsh winters meant that architects had to develop an ice formation control system. This will be achieved primarily through the use of a double-layered outer glass shell. Glazing throughout will regulate interior and exterior temperature differences, and architects also plan on heating the glass of the upper levels. Glass is being used in this construction to regulate extremes of temperatures as a whole, not just hot or cold. This not only ensures a comfortable environment for those within the building, but also significantly improves the building’s structural integrity and power efficiency, making it one of the most ecological skyscrapers on the planet – with heating and air conditioning consumption reduced by 50%.

Similarly, coated and laminated double glazed glass is very common in buildings in the Middle East, where UV solar rays must be filtered and keeping interiors cool is of the utmost importance.

Augmented glass technology

An exciting and relatively new development is that of solar control glass. Solar control glass contains invisible layers of special materials which allow sunlight in, but repel UV rays and solar heat. Solar heat is something often overlooked when it comes to planning, but it’s a massively important environmental factor in glass-centric buildings.

This report finds that: “Greater use of solar control glass in residential and non-residential buildings in the EU could save between 15 and 85 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2020.

This is primarily because many older buildings rely on air conditioning to regulate interior temperature as a necessity. Air conditioning is not something that is going to go away, as more and more buildings depend on it and more people use it than ever before. Unfortunately, air conditioning can be a huge factor in a building’s energy use and CO2 output.

As the report states, air conditioning systems can often end up working overtime to compensate for solar heat. By augmenting solar control glass with air conditioning, and therefore letting light in but keeping a lot of heat out, architects will be able to minimise AC use to where it is only absolutely necessary. If property owners keep up-to-date with these technological developments, our collective environmental problems may be alleviated.

Integrated green building solutions

Of course, glass technology isn’t the golden ticket to energy efficiency. It must be combined with many other practices, such as proactive energy management, as well as using eco materials throughout the entire construction (including the type of concrete!). However, as buildings become more and more glass-centric, glass technology is becoming a vital element of new eco projects. It’s up to architects, designers and developers to keep on improving how we work glass and windows into our ecological solutions. You can help the environment more immediately by finding out how you can use windows to improve your property’s energy efficiency.

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