Glass half full

Glass facades, glass windows, glass panels… the creative use of glass in construction has become a hot trend with many Indian architects. Although glass adds to the aesthetic appeal of a structure, it has serious drawbacks that are often not considered.

One of the most obvious drawbacks of a glass façade is that it traps heat. Shankar Narayanan Seshan, principal architect, Blueprint Design Management, says, “Although it is common practice to use glass in construction, glass facades increase indoor temperatures and invariably the cooling load on the building air-conditioning. Cleaning glass is also labour-intensive.” The solution, he says, lies in relying on natural ventilation and light rather than air-conditioning, which is the norm today. “We need to create designs sensitive to the environment and based on site parameters such as direction of air flow,” he points out.

Further, tinted and toughened glass is non-recyclable, which is a major issue, says, Avikal Somvanshi, senior research associate, Centre for Science and Environment. “Most glass is sold as recyclable but we don’t have the infrastructure to recycle it. Manufacturing and recycling glass is a highly energy-intensive process and must be used judiciously.” Not only do glass facades trap heat, they also bring in glare. “People are forced to use blinds to avoid the glare and end up using artificial light during the day, further increasing energy consumption,” adds Avikal.

Shripal Munshi, principal architect, Shripal and Venkat Architects, says glass has been used in the West, Far East and now SE Asia for decades. “But it has to be used wisely. High performance glass with adequate coatings and sensible architecture has to be integrated into the design.” Aesthetics also drives the use of glass. “Not every building has to look futuristic or make a high-techstatement with metal cladding, glass, or elaborate facades. Facades should have a fine balance,” says Shripal, suggesting alternative material such as thin ceramic sheets, high pressure laminates and terracotta panels.

Another major concern in India is the increased risk of fire accidents in glass buildings. This is because Indian builders ignore planning and safe performance criteria. Added to this is the absence of codes for glass-clad buildings. “There are hundreds of glass-clad buildings in Hong Kong and Singapore that have been safe for decades. That’s because fire safety rules have been followed, says Shripal.

Rather than blindly adopt glass because the West uses it, it makes more sense to see if it is compatible with our climate and needs.


Glass facades increase indoor temperatures. This ups the load on building ACs

Glass facades trap heat and also bring in glare

Cleaning glass is a laborious process

Alternatives High performance glass with adequate coatings

Sensible architecture that integrates glass in the right proportion and places

Ceramic sheets, high pressure laminates, terracotta panels etc.

Natural light and air vents that avoid glass altogether

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 5:57:17 AM |

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