Innovation is a major focus for Guardian Glass. And during a press conference last week in London several company executives spoke about the future outlook for glass.

Sheldon Davis, vice president of science, technology and innovation, talked about the company’s vision of glass in the future, as well as some big strategic developments. In addition, Javier Unquera, science and technology Europe director, discussed performance vs. aesthetics, and Jasmin Hodzic, commercial project, Africa and Middle East director, discussed challenges for megatall buildings.

Speaking of some recent developments, Davis said the company’s new headquarters in Luxembourg will allow the company to understand global trends better. “Having this in Luxembourg … will help the global development of new products and capabilities for company,” he said. “The vision overall is to create lasting value through products and process innovation for customers …”

He added, “Globally, we’re excited about innovation … [and Luxembourg] will be a significant investment over the coming years.”

Davis also talked some about drivers of product development. Aesthetics, for example, are important.

“Our glass solutions are designed to create the crispest, cleanest solutions,” he said.

Energy efficiency and sustainability are also important. This, Davis said, comes down to selectivity; letting in the light while keeping the heat out.

Processability and durability are also important, given the producers are processed downstream by fabricators.

Other developments include the company’s Clarity anti-reflective glass. This glass renders the lowest reflection possible to emphasis what’s on the other side of the glass.

Davis added that the company’s focus is to provide a single product solution.

“We’re focused on fabricator customers. We want to help them be more effective,” he said.

Speaking of glass performance vs. aesthetics, Unquera explained that different buildings have different needs with respect to aesthetics, performance and function.

“Few building materials can have as great an impact on all three of these areas as glass,” he said. “Choose the right glass so architects can benefit from high performance solutions with a high aesthetic.”

He explained it’s important to address aesthetics from both the design stage as well as the final customer/occupant point of view.

Unquera next discussed some trends in today’s glass facades, including neutrality, high light transmission, reflectivity, big glass sizes and shapes (e.g. curved or bent glass). The intent, he explained, is to provide the highest performing and most attractive glass products in the industry.

For example, the company developed SunGuard SNX 60, a triple silver coated solar control glass that offers high performance, energy efficiency and enhanced aesthetics with a neutral, transparent appearance.

Guardian’s SunGuard SNX 60, a triple silver coated solar control glass, was used in a recent project, La Casa del Desierto (The Desert House). Courtesy of Guardian Glass LLC © Gonzalo Botet

The glass was used in a recent project, La Casa del Desierto (The Desert House) in the Gorafe Desert in Spain. The project’s objective was to demonstrate across the four seasons of the year, the importance of glass in daily life, particularly in one of the most adverse and extreme environments in Europe. La Case del Desierto stands on a wooden structure and is fully glazed with Guardian Glass products, including SunGuard SNX 60.

Another recent development (also used in La Casa del Desierto) is Guardian System TEA (True Edge Application). This technology is designed to improve the quality and reduce the time required for edge enameling of heat-treatable, sputter-coated glass. This was developed in cooperation with Ferro and is designed to help reduce lead times for structural glazing products.

Guardian System TEA is applied to the sputter-coated glass substrate to create a strong, uniform surface that provides reliable adhesion in structural glazing applications, including facades, all-glass corners, glass fins and more.

Hodzic next spoke about some of the technical challenges of glass for mega tall buildings, which he defined as one being higher than 600 meters (1,968.5feet).

“Glass for megatall buildings is often taken for granted when we talk about function and performance,” he said, explaining that the main challenges relate to windload, temperature and altitude differences, and condensation.

“Close to the ground, wind is disrupted by trees and other buildings, but as a building rises to supertall heights, these obstacles disappear. The tower then faces the full, unobstructed force of the wind,” he said.

Other major factors are light and heat. Tall buildings, because of their enormous internal heat mass, tend to need constant air conditioning, even in the colder months of the year. Hodzic explained that air conditioning is a skyscraper’s single biggest energy cost. He said that not only do megatall buildings have high internal heat mass, but a very large proportion of many are located in desert regions of the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia.

Hodzic pointed to two megatall examples that feature Guardian Glass. The Burj Khalifa is currently the world’s tallest building at 828 meters (2,719.82 feet) and has 26,000 panels of glass.

The other example, the Jeddah Tower, will be complete in 2019 and has 400,000 square meters of glass. It will be at least 173 meters higher than Bur Khalifa.

Addressing specific challenges with megatall buildings, Hodzic looked at the surroundings, which are often hot and humid in the summer and have nothing around for protection. This is why low-E glass is important, because it can help prevent condensation on the outer pane. He explained that without low-E the cold inside (from the air conditioning) will go through the glass and make the outside colder, which would form the condensation.

Altitude differences are another challenge. This is because the difference between the top and the bottom of a megatall building—an d the temperature difference linked to this—can cause glass deflection issues on the insulating glass unit due to the pressure difference.

Windloads are a further consideration. Due to the height of megatall buildings, wind forces can be extremely high. According to Hodzic, even though the dynamic shape of the building is designed to reduce structural loading due to wind vortex shedding, the glass thickness is very important, too. The Burj Khalifa’s glass façade was designed to withstand windloads of up to 250 km/hour. Likewise, the glass system for the Jeddah Tower is designed to withstand a 2.5 meter radius sway without breakage or leakage. The thickness of the glass used depends on the height of the building where it is installed. The heat treatment—fully tempering or heat strengthening—is also crucial, as it will make the glass up to five times stronger to resist extreme windloads and temperature differences.

The company plans to feature many of these developments at the upcoming glasstec trade fair.