Graham Dodd of Arup took part in today's Glasscon Global Transatlantic Debate.
Graham Dodd of Arup took part in today’s Glasscon Global Transatlantic Debate.

“Some of the greatest minds in our industry are in attendance at this conference.” Those were the words of Ed Zaucha, chair of the inaugural GlassCon Global Conference, which opened today at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Approximately 350 people are attending the event, coming from around the world—including architects, designers, researchers, installers and fabricators, among many others.

“Expect new and innovative things to come out of this conference,” said Zaucha in his opening remarks.

The conference opened with the Transatlantic Debate, in which a panel of architects, designers and engineers discussed global standards, products and designs.

Panelists each began with a short presentation discussing various projects and designs, codes, standards and various other considerations when it comes to the use of glass in architecture.

Charles Bloomberg of Rafael Vinoly Architects spoke first and looked at a number of the firm’s global projects. He discussed themes such as transparency in design, as well as how glass can provide the project with various levels of texture. For example, he showed one project where on one side of the building opaque glass was used to provide privacy, while the opposite side features clear glass for transparency.

Keith Boswell with SOM spoke next and also provided an overview of some of the firm’s glass projects. Using the San Francisco airport as an example, he noted that the intent was to allow in light, but not too much glare. He added that glass was also used within the interior as another means to allow in and transmit light.

Graham Dodd of Arup spoke about some of the processes and challenges his firm has seen in terms of glazing, including thermal insulation, shading, environmental impact and variety.

Speaking of the environmental impact, he used a Lloyds of London project example, where Saint-Gobain recycled the building’s old glass four use into new float glass. Such practices are in line with the increasing desire for such processes as cradle-to-certification.

Another example he gave is the increasing use of thin glass for façades, which allow architects to minimize the amount of glass used.

Werner Jager with ai3 discussed codes and standards. Jager explained that in Europe, buildings are striving to be near net zero energy by 2020; and government buildings will be so by 2018. By 2050, the whole building stock is striving to be climate neutral.

He also stressed the importance of considering human needs and visual comfort.

“Don’t forget the human being behind the glass,” he said. “… Think about the people inside the building.”

James O’Callaghan with Eckersley O’Callaghan provided a look at some of the structural glass projects on which his firm has been involved, including many of the worldwide Apple stores. New technologies are enabling the firm and architects to design increasing larger glass projects, working with curved glass products as well as thin glass. He said they are finding ways to minimize connections and increase transparency.

After the presentations, the question and answer portion began. The first offered a discussion of innovation: is there sufficient innovation in the glass industry and is it sufficient for you?

Boswell said the short answer is yes, sometimes. “Innovation is a clever response usually by clever people … clients come up with simples things they need done and sometimes it’s challenging,” he said “Innovation happens when people get behind something and push for a solution.”

O’Callaghan added that “innovation needs fuel. And that needs people to put the money into it and people who are prepared to take a risk.”

Another question asked whether the U.S.’s lag in innovation has to do with lack of risk taking. Dodd responded that in situations where innovation does happen, it needs commitment and it needs a process. “Innovation isn’t always something new,” he said, noting the example of recycling and re-using old glass. Innovation, he explained, is a process of chipping away at the risks.

Panelists also stressed the importance of education and collaboration with installers.

“As designers, we’re only as good as what we make. We have to bring focus onto that,” he said, noting the importance of collaboration with all parties involved in the project.

Dodd added that the project’s success goes through not only making/designing it, but also installation. “Respect and recognize the skills that are involved,” he said.

“All the good things we’ve done is because we’ve had the right team together,” added Bloomberg.

Boswell agreed, noting that when his firm is working on a design, they work with the manufacturers, fabricators and installers to learn all that they can about the products and materials.
“You need to do the research as a design professional, or you have not served the client,” he said.

GlassCon Global runs through Thursday this week. Stay tuned to™ for more news and reports from the conference.

1 Comment

  1. Did anyone ask why buildings are being specified with frameless glass doors that clearly exceed industry guidelines? It appears the Architect / Spec writers are doing less work pressuring General Contractors /Glaziers to build what they want and in extreme cases potentially jeopardizing public safety. As we try to build more astatically pleasing buildings sometime less is not always more.

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