News Analysis: Acid-Etched Glass

Surface Attraction: Aesthetics and Performance of Acid-Etched Glass

Ellen Rogers

Whether for exterior or interior use, acid-etched glass products have a lot to offer today’s architectural applications. Not only do they provide privacy, they can also help control glare while still allowing natural light to flow deep within interior spaces. For exterior applications, acid-etched glass can also be incorporated into insulating glass units, creating an attractive, high-performance façade. Common applications include interior partitions and office enclosures, balustrades and railings, flooring and stairs, and shower and bath enclosures, among many more.

“Acid-etch glass significantly contributes to the wellness of people by diffusing natural light in a highly effective way, while at the same time providing needed privacy,” says Charles Alexander, business development manager with Walker Glass in Montreal. “It allows the architect to use his/her full breadth of design imagination while enabling privacy, spandrel and bird-friendly design requirements to a given structure.” He adds that the appearance of the etched surface will not change over time, and it can be cleaned the same way as unetched glass.

According to Sarah Wansack, Guardian Glass marketing manager, interiors, North America, unlike other frosted glass treatments and aftermarket films that may peel and scratch over time, her company’s SatinDeco acid-etch glass maintains its aesthetics with little care.

“The durable and fingerprint-resistant surface hides imperfections while standing up to the wear and tear of daily life. It’s easy to clean using a standard, nonabrasive product.”

She continues, “[Its] distinctive look makes acid-etch glass a perfect choice to create unique ambiance and privacy in multiple applications, from interior to exterior, commercial to residential,” she says, adding that acid-etch glass also provides diversity to the application. “It can be beveled, curved, heat-treated, painted, laminated or assembled in a double-glazed insulating glass unit.”

John Clarke, regional sales manager for McGrory Glass based in Paulsboro, N.J., says acid-etched glass adds an extra layer of customization and additional functionality to designs.

“In many cases, acid-etched glass provides anti-glare and anti-fingerprint properties, enhances and utilizes light in unique ways, creates dimensionality, and can even be writable and projectable,” says Clarke.

As an example, McGrory fabricated the interior glazing for the Slayton Search lobby, which features acid etching to create depth and further branding. The VitrealSpecchi acid-etched glass was used as the top layer above a custom print interlayer featuring the company’s logo.

“In Slayton’s centerpiece lobby, the addition of a customized, etched, patterned face provides dimensionality, depth, and allows light to play with the glass in a way that standard low iron surfaces cannot,” says Clarke. “Additionally, the use of a horizontal, organic, etched pattern on the glass surface creates synergy with the organic, horizontal flow of the Slayton graphic. The graphic and the etch come together to create a visual that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.”

And there’s more to acid-etching than just the unique aesthetic. It can also at-tribute to creating a bright, light-filled space, contributing to occupant comfort.

“Acid-etched glass products can provide decorative qualities to indoor spaces without fully restricting the flow of both natural and artificial light through the space,” says Clarke. “This adds positive value to the overall in-door environmental quality, and helps provide occupants with one of the most sought after indoor resources: natural light.”

Acid-etched glass can also contribute to green building design. Danik Dancause, marketing operations manager with Walker Glass, explains, “Since the appearance of etched glass does not degrade over time we can safely state that it is as sustainable as regular clear glass.” He adds that his company’s Textures acid-etched glass is often combined with the low-E coatings from Vitro Architectural Glass, yielding an energy-efficient glass envelope solution for the building owner.

“Also, Walker has completed third-party Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) on its full surface acid-etched glass and mirror that con-tribute to the certification of LEED V4 projects,” Dancause says.

Wansack adds that her company “strives to innovate in ways that enable us to make better products and solutions for our customers with an eye to-ward helping architects and designers meet sustainability goals.”

As an example, the company has also published EPDs for flat glass and processed glass products manufactured at its float plants in the Americas, and has an updated Health Product Declaration version 2.1 for flat and processed glass produced in North America. Wansack says these are in accordance with ISO 14025 and can help building projects earn up to two LEED V4 credits.

While acid-etched glass may often be thought of first as an interior glazing product, the material is also ideal for exterior applications, as it can be used in reducing glare, diffusing light and providing privacy while maximizing daylighting. In addition, it can be combined with low-E substrates in an insulating glass unit for an energy-efficient glazing installation.

One unique exterior application is Amazon’s new office in Seattle, which features glass fins with an acid-etched finish. Fabricator Vitrum Glass Group incorporated Walker Glass’ Textures Velour finish as part of the laminated glass fins.

New advances in acid-etching have also led to the development of bird-friendly glass products. Walker Glass has partnered with Vitro Architectural Glass to provide its AviProtek bird-friendly glass products on Vitro’s Solarban low-E glass. The glass features acid-etched markings to deter bird collisions. One project example is the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Toronto’s Humber College.

The glazing, part of the college’s restoration of several older buildings on campus, capitalizes on the interplay of light and muted textured shadows in the space, while optimizing natural daylight and energy efficiency. The bird-friendly 211 pattern, which was etched on Surface #1, has a threat factor of 23, which means that birds will avoid colliding with it at least 77 percent of the time, based on tunnel tests conducted by the American Bird Conservancy.

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