At Wrightstyle, we like to think that we know everything there is about steel glazing systems, writes Jane Embury, marketing director.
That’s the heart and soul of our business. Our expertise is to design and fabricate steel systems to guard against fire, or ballistic and bomb attack.
Each off those threats carry their own unique characteristics, depending on the building and the size of the glazed components.
Our experience and expertise is valued by our customers. It’s why our systems are specified worldwide, with contracts this year in Australia, the USA and New Zealand.
Our systems are there to frame protective glass, and so form one compatible unit that is absolutely fit for purpose.
So, in looking at compatibility, it’s also worth looking at glass itself and how glass types are evolving.
Because our business is all about developing new systems for new applications and always making sure that glass and frame remain a perfect partnership.
According to a report, the global flat glass market is anticipated to reach approximately $150 billion by 2025,.
The reason for the size of the market is that there is no more versatile building material than glass.
Underlining its functionality, glass is fundamental to how a building looks from the outside and how it performs from the inside.
That’s both in terms of heat loss or gain, and how its characteristics impact on, for example, lighting and HVAC systems.
Add in legislation and regulations covering noise, safety and the environment, and it’s easy to see how glass is central to the building envelope.
Its advanced characteristics have allowed for building facades that can enhance sun protection, or improve thermal comfort. It can enhance air quality and reduce lighting, cooling and heating costs.
That’s an important consideration because between 3-6% of total energy consumption is lost through windows.
Perhaps the most important innovation over the past 25 years has been glass types able to minimise heat loss while permitting in visible light from the building’s exterior.
This low thermal (Low-E) performance minimises the loss of thermal infrared radiation and can impact significantly on heating costs.
Conversely, modern glass types can reduce solar heat gain. In hot countries, modern glass types can significantly reduce energy usage associated with air conditioning.
Today’s glazing systems do therefore have a beneficial impact on the indoor climate, regulating both heat loss and heat gain, while still allowing for light transfer.
However, the next big thing is taking that role of “climate moderator” to the next level – by using the glass to generate energy.
The science is compelling. The luminous flux in a square metre cross-section of summer sunlight, even in moderate latitudes, is enough to light about 200 square metres of interior space.
That’s exactly what photovoltaic (PV) cells are there to achieve. They can provide cost-effective and environmentally-friendly energy solutions.
Internally, glass is also offering new and innovative solutions. For example, switchable glass that employs advanced liquid crystal technology, activated by an electric current.
This turns translucent glass into an opaque wall – for privacy rooms or to turn an internal glass screen into a projector screen. Other applications will soon create windows that at night will turn fluorescent and capable of lighting interior spaces.
Glass is also a “green” product – made from natural materials that are in abundant supply. Glass can also be endlessly recycled.
Architects globally are increasingly seeking to bring in natural light into buildings. They’re using modern glazing systems in larger and larger configurations.
Glass and glazing systems are therefore at the forefront of the sustainability agenda. And new levels of functionality are being developed.
However, none of that would have been possible without one major innovation: to develop its capability for strength and resilience.
Once single-paned and brittle, modern glass types can be a multi-layered barrier against fire, excessive sound, and protect against ballistic and bomb attack.
Modern glass composites have near-perfect optical quality and can stop a fire for two hours or more. They can also prevent bullets from passing through and withstand the detonation of a high explosive charge.
Glass therefore is not only the most versatile of building materials, it is also a building material that continues to evolve.
Our business at Wrightstyle is, of course, to design and fabricate steel glazing systems. Those complement different glass types to give fire protection for up to 120 minutes.
But a vital consideration, as we always underline, is that any life-safety application for glass must involve both the glass type and its framing system.
Both must be compatible, and have test certification for compatibility. Simply, a high-performance glass is only as good as its framing system, and vice versa.
Like glass itself, our framing systems have also evolved to provide greater levels of protection. Even a handful of years ago, that would have been unthinkable.