Every couple of years I attend an industry conference that looks to be professionally interesting. Such was the case with the Facades+ Conference held last week in NYC. I was blown away by the architects and technical presentations, and what’s quickly coming down the pike. Many of the projects are being or have been built, so there’s a sense of reality, as opposed to some of the projects from my last blog.
First, how about some wood-framed buildings to attach curtain walls and windows to? Granted, most of us are familiar with wood framed homes, but not so for high-rise construction. The article points to a 40-story frame designed by Fazlur Kahn in 1965 – he’s one of the engineering wizards of SOM / Sears Tower fame. Apparently, an upside to using wood is it has lower carbon emissions to make it than do steel or concrete.
Second, ETFE panels. If you don’t already know the initials (I didn’t), you soon will. Think of the blue swimming cube at the Beijing Olympics: those blue bubble panels are ETFE (ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene). The material can be extruded, injection molded, or made into long sheets, then formed into complex or simple 3D shapes very economically. In the example shown at the conference, the steel required to support the roof of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, incorporating clear ETFE panels, could be 30 percent lighter. It has none of the crazing or deterioration associated with acrylic panels, and can be clear or translucent (white or pigmented). It looks to be the new material for a lot of stadiums and other large panel facades for a few years. Stay tuned, we may be asked to glaze this into curtainwalls or skylights in the not too distant future.
Third, get ready for warped glass. No, not multifaceted designs – those are easy. A lot of architectural firms are researching this, and talking to a lot of the glass manufacturers about cold forming and pre-warping the glass in the fabrication of IGUs or laminated products. Frank Gehry started this with a building in Lower Manhattan (written about in a previous blog), and more architects are wanting to see if the initial limitations can be overcome on large scale projects.
Fourth, molded glass. No, this isn’t the decorative stuff. The architect, in order to cut down on the amount of framing required, heated large glass lites and basically slumped them into a mold that had an “X” shape in it. The depth of the slump didn’t appear to be much more than 2 to 3 inches, but it resulted in a larger lite with a built-in stiffener. Yes, the optical clarity of the glass was sacrificed at the “X,” but the rest of the glass remained clear. Visually, you first think there’s some type of structure integral to the glass, but when you realize it’s just glass, it’s quite remarkable. You’ll have to page through the photos on the architect’s page, but it’s worth it.
Fifth, the guys who did the NY Tickets Stairs and Apple Stores are working to get more uses for the large lites that we’re seeing coming on the market. Remember the 10- x 45-foot two lites of ½-inch laminated lite shown last year at AIA? They’re exploring the use of glass as a structural element carried to an exponential – it’s beyond me to describe. But, when you can design a glass stair and take a photo of the entire office staff on the finished installation, that’s got to be a great confidence builder. O’Callaghan admitted he wanted to write something to the owners about “don’t do that again,” but didn’t.
Lastly, it’s always interesting to see how you can get caught up in the latest craze. And when I did, by signing on to the “Google can’t trademark the word ‘glass’” thing, even going so far as posting the petition on my personal Facebook page, the error of my ways was pointed out from a most unlikely source. Remember all those times you talk about your kids around the cooler at work? It was one of those kids, who is the daughter of a former co-worker, when her mom and dad both sent her my Facebook posting.
She’s now the age of my older kids (funny how that works), and turned intellectual property attorney. She pointed out that the concern about Google trademarking “glass” is unfounded. Basically, something that generic can’t be trademarked. And the classic example is the same folks bringing us these large glass retail installations: Apple. The fact that Apple has trademarked their name doesn’t mean the local grocery store can’t advertise they still sell apples, let alone that they may even sell McIntosh apples, and there’s not a thing Apple, Inc., can do about it. Thank you, Ms. Anne Turner, for pointing this out to me.
Anyone needing a good intellectual property attorney, I have the contact info for a really good one in Dallas. Some of this glass and detailing design, certainly looks like they are candidates for patents. Who knows what’s coming next. You ready?