The End of the Glass Box Is Nigh

vancouver skyline photo

Image Credit Paul Joseph, Creative Commons Licence

There are a lot of reasons that architects design condos with floor to ceiling glass; people like views and they can look very elegant in the right hands. But the main reason they do it is cost; building with glass walls means that the builder is essentially subcontracting the entire exterior to one trade, and that thin glass skin is fast and cheap. Three years ago I wrote Stop With the Glass Façades Already, and it seems that it might finally be happening as the building codes get tougher about energy.

stop-glass image

From Stop With the Glass Façades Already

Frances Bula writes in the Globe and Mail about the reason designers are moving away from floor to ceiling glass:

Architects and buyers have complained of how boring glass towers have become. Planners and sustainability experts wring their hands about the lack of energy efficiency - glass, after all, is the poorest insulating building material around.

And soon, new codes with heightened environmental standards will force builders to limit the amount of clear glass on the exterior.

In Vancouver, which is a sea of glass, environmentalists are complaining.

In Vancouver, concern about the energy and design problems of glass towers is even stronger. "They are very inefficient," says David Ramslie, the city's sustainable development program manager. Not only does glass transfer heat and cold much more than other materials - making buildings more expensive to cool in the summer and heat in the winter - but builders have typically built glass towers with the same materials on all four sides, even though the impact of the sun is far more severe on the south and west.

It seems so obvious, that one would design south walls differently than north walls, but that isn't the way it's done. And since developers will almost always build to the minimum building code standard that they can get away with, any increases in efficiency and reductions in glass area will have to be through regulation, and the pushback from the developers will be that it increases the cost of housing and will kill the industry.

But it is time to end the glass loophole that lets developers get away with building what are essentially uninsulated walls. And while they are at it, how about demanding natural ventilation and getting rid of radiator fin balconies without thermal breaks.
More on Better Building:
Gimme A Thermal Break: Get Rid of Radiator Fin Balconies
Big Steps in Building: Get Rid Of Those Radiator Fins
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Big Steps In Building: Make Natural Ventilation Mandatory

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