Big Movers: Operable Glass Walls Create Flexible, Open Interiors

By Ellen Rogers

The use of glass in interior spaces is one design trend that seems to be on an accelerated path—and for plenty of good reasons. Replacing an opaque wall with glass helps create a bright, open space and allows natural light deep into the space. In addition to stationary glass walls, many companies are also providing movable glass systems that not only achieve the desired aesthetic, but can also create a more functional working environment. These systems are most often used for office division, such as in a conference room or multipurpose area where the space needs to have multiple functions.

Bryan Welch, the managing director of Modernfold (an affiliate company of DormaKaba), says movable glass wall systems for interior spaces provide a number of benefits. These include the ability to have flexible space division combined with the modern look and feel of glass. Likewise, the glazing also provides clear sightlines and daylighting.

“Movable glass wall systems can be used anywhere where space division is required, but are commonly seen in office spaces,” he says. “We are seeing an increasing trend in school projects as they require the ability to transform spaces [as well as] open sightlines for safety.”

C. Scott Welch, director, hardware products for Bohle America Inc., says another advantage is using these systems to create bigger spaces in applications such as conference rooms. This can be done with panel systems that slide-and-stack, as well as fixed panels that swing in and outward. He says the sliding systems provide more floor space compared to swing doors, which can take up a lot of space in offices, which he says have gotten smaller in square footage.

He has also seen the sliders used in retail applications, as well as in some residential settings, though that’s more common in Europe compared to the U.S., which, he says is still a swing door market.

Likewise, he adds they’re starting to see more interest in pocket doors with glass.

“That’s a way to completely hide the door in the wall,” he says. “You can have large openings by moving the panels into the walls.”

Glass Types

David Vasquez, dormakaba’s senior regional sales manager for Interior Glass Systems/Access Solutions Americas, says the single most common type of glass used in these systems is ½-inch clear tempered.

“After that, we see custom laminates and painted tempered lites, such as digital printing or frit, he says. “But clear with a film applied for branding is most common.”

While clear glass is most often used within these interior systems, it’s not the only option. Bryan Welch adds they see a variety of glass including low iron, frosted and etched, as well as a field-applied appliques.

“We’ve also seen an increased demand in transition glass, which can change from clear to opaque, and most recently, we’ve seen high demand for our new 51 STC acoustical glass. This allows for an extremely high level of acoustical control not normally found with other movable glass walls.”

Vasquez agrees there’s increasing interest in privacy options.

“We’ve had requests for it and we are in a research and development phase to look at what we can do with it,” he says. “With the Internet of Things [which connects the activity of devices and systems, including doors, locks, etc., to the internet] it is becoming more prevalent and we want to stay up with the curve.”

Trends and Changes

Interior office spaces have evolved a lot in recent years. They are becoming more open and bright, and there’s a growing desire for flexible work spaces. These trends are good news for the glass industry.

“We have really seen an increase in glass throughout all vertical markets as the importance of daylighting is becoming more and more important,” says Bryan Welch. “Being able to provide space division flexibility with glass and now privacy options are changing the movable glass market as we know it.”

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