Stop With the Glass Façades Already

big step glass image

We have noted before that the current design trend of floor-to-ceiling glass makes a lovely looking building, but that it is ridiculously extravagant in terms of energy. Now we learn from the Wall Street Journal that gee, there are other problems: One buyer of a New York condo with glass façades found "She got her vistas. But she got other things she didn't bargain for. The strong and relentless western light forced her to don sunglasses while reading. It made watching television and using her laptop computer almost impossible. The air conditioning could barely keep the temperature tolerable as sun baked the $1.5 million apartment on summer afternoons. And the sun bleached her pair of brightly colored European sectional sofas, which cost $20,000." The Journal also notes that she is a 23 year old grad student, so that's gotta hurt.


In LA, "David Wood learned the hard way not to try to clean the expansive windows in his downtown condo on a sunny afternoon. The investment banker squirted Windex onto the inside of one of them -- and it stuck. 'The mist baked right into the window and stained it. I couldn't get it out. It was that hot,' he recalls. The stain is still there."


One would think that a façade that works in New York might not work in LA, but this is what every architect is doing now. And while there are high-tech films and glass technologies that can cut down the heat gain or loss, and even vacuum glass coming in the near future that can get up to R-12, most developers don't spend money where the customers can't see it, the mirrored look is definitely not in style these days, and so they continue to shift the problem onto the operating costs through more heating and cooling, or on the homeowners to put up expensive shading or listen to New York designer Jamie Gibbs: "You'd better pick beige interiors, because everything is going to become beige in two years."

Enough. Right now many building codes demand that each component meet certain criteria (solid walls might be R-20 minimum, glazing must be double) but if the wall is all glass, minimum R-values go out the window, literally.

The big step in building we need: Change the building code

so that it doesn't demand a minimum R-value of a component such as the solid wall (of which there is almost none) but an average over the entire wall. Then if a builder wants to do a lot of glass, it better be high-performance stuff. No more floor-to-ceiling glass with an R-value of 4.

::Wall Street Journal
Some other big steps for big buildings:
Big Steps in Building: Get Rid Of Those Radiator Fins
Big Steps In Building: Make Natural Ventilation Mandatory
Big Steps in Building: Change our Building Codes from Relative to Absolute

And our Roundup of Big Steps in Building:

12 Big Steps to Make Building Better

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