Etched in Glass: Trends in Acid-Etched Glass Applications

By Jordan Scott

Thoughts of acid-etched glass often conjure images of decorative glass used for shower doors or statement pieces in interior design. While not much has changed in the way acid-etched glass is created, its popularity and the types of applications are growing. From large glass to flooring and exteriors, acid-etched glass is being specified increasingly by architects and designers.

AESTHETIC TRENDS

Jacques Parent, vice president and partner at Euroverre in Terrebonne, Quebec, says that aesthetics drive many trends in acid-etched glass. He’s seen an increase in wall coverings pairing acid-etched glass with backpainting  for commercial applications.

“What we’ve seen from Europe is more temperable backpainted glass with acid-etching on surface one,” he says. The lobby wall for 700 de la Gauchetière Tower in Montreal is an example of backpainted glass paired with full acid-etch. While not tempered, a safety backing was applied to the glass. He says the glass makes the lobby seem brighter.

“Architects and designers are looking for reflection but want opacity at the same time. The look and reflection is modern and easy to clean,” he says, adding that dark colors are growing in popularity.

Parent says that his company tries to avoid using glass with a green tint, instead favoring low-iron glass for acid-etched applications because of its more neutral color while allowing backpainted colors to appear more true to color.

Other trends Parent has noticed include using acid-etching on both sides of the glass to create a 3D effect and using acid-etched glass to create the look of marble.

Danik Dancause, marketing operations manager for Walker Glass Co. Ltd. in Montreal, agrees that it’s becoming more common for acid-etching to be paired with other techniques, such as backpainting and lamination to create a different look. He says that acid-etching pairs well with other techniques because it’s durable and sustainable.

For the H&M Flagship Store in Toronto, acid-etched glass was used on the exterior of the building to create a true white. According to Dancause, the best result was achieved by etching each surface of the two 8-mm lites. Low-iron glass was used to give more light.

THE BIG PICTURE

Sevasa, based in Barcelona, Spain, recently began offering oversize acid-etched glass, which it calls XXL. The company can produce the glass up to 354 inches (9 meters) in a variety of acid-etched finishes and designs. Marketing manager Núria Galbe says glass of that size is used mostly as a standout piece where the glass will shine. Galbe says it could be used in commercial skyscrapers, for flagship stores or a company’s headquarters.

NON-SLIP FLOORS

Glass Flooring Systems, based in Whippany, N.J., offers acid-etched glass flooring for walkable skylights, landings, catwalks and anything else that requires walkable glass. Besides the aesthetic value CEO Wayne Conklin says the other main reason architects design glass floors into a project is to allow light to pass through to brighten a space.

“Our business is growing continually based on offering these types of products,” he says.

The company can etch the glass using a variety of textures or patterns. Conklin says that whether a company chooses to use a solid texture or a dot pattern depends on the aesthetic they desire, not the effectiveness of the anti-slip surface, which doesn’t vary.

“It’s a proven surface that lasts and no maintenance is needed. Once the glass is acid-etched it’s permanent and the surface isn’t changing,” he says. Conklin’s company tests its glass floors to ANSI A326.3—2017, Test Method for Measuring Dynamic Coefficient of Friction of Hard Surface Flooring Materials.

Sevasa has also seen the demand for non-slip glass floorings grow. The company was recently involved in the Botin Center project in Santander, Spain, designed by Renzo Piano and Luis Vidal + Architects.

“The climate there on the coast is very rainy and misty. Those were the principle challenges we had to face for the glass floor. Renzo Piano is very people and socially oriented when designing buildings. Lighting and brightness are main objectives for him,” says Galbe. “This is why the floor was designed to be glass that connects both buildings.”

The museum was built on a city park so it would have high foot traffic. Paired with the rainy climate, Galbe says it was important to have a durable floor with maximum slip resistance.

FUNCTION OVER FORM

Galbe says that architects focus on performance rather than just aesthetics when specifying acid-etched glass.

She has seen an increase in demand for anti-glare and anti-scratch products. While anti-scratch is useful in high-traffic areas, anti-glare is becoming more popular for the exterior applications, especially for spandrel areas.

Anti-glare glass can also be used so that digital printing applied to the glass can have anti-glare properties without having whiteness or translucency.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Dancause notes that acid-etched glass is continually being pushed from the inside to the outside of the building.

“About ten years ago it was rare to fi nd etched glass on the outside, now it’s much more common. You can find it used for guardrails or part of the building envelope structure,” he says, adding that bird-friendly glass is one example of this trend.

Walker is working closely with scientists to develop patterns that work well for bird deterrence. The company can etch any type of uncoated substrate. For the OVO Athletic Centre in Toronto, an acid-etched, bird-friendly pattern was used on the first surface with a low-E coating on the third surface of Vitro Architectural Glass’ Optiblue glass. Solarban R100 was added to the number four surface for privacy and reflection.

Nathan McKenna, Vitro’s segment marketing manager, says the company can apply most of its low-E coatings to Walker’s bird-friendly designs if necessary. He also adds that the OVO Athletic Centre used tinted glass, but color does not impact birds’ ability to see the glass.

FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS

According to Parent, the quality of  the glass surface is important, which can vary depending on the fabricator. He says the best quality acid-etched glass has a soft surface that is easy to clean.

Dancause adds that not all acid-etched finishes are the same.

“Whichever product was specified should remain for the project. You shouldn’t mix and match different finishes and substrates, otherwise it can look funny,” he says. “A word of caution, wherever you source the glass from, make sure it all comes from the same source with the same finish.”

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