The Art and Science of Glass
Not going to NeoCon? I can't bring you everything you'll miss, but I can share the content of a session I'll be moderating at the show. Without any objectivity, or modesty, I recommend it as an important presentation on a topic of great interest to designers.
The Art and Science of Glass will feature three industry leaders: Suzanne Tick, best known as a textile designer who has produced a line of glass patterns for Skyline Design; Al Leonard with the Trainor Glass Company, a fabricator and installer, and Charlie Rizzo, the president of Skyline Design, a decorative glass design and manufacturing firm. They will share their expertise and offer insights on the artistic, environmental, and technical considerations associated with the installation of glass and its ethereal and psychological impact on architectural spaces.
Why all this attention to glass? Few materials affect the beauty, performance, and ecology of interior spaces as directly or profoundly as glass, and we use a lot of it. Glass is ubiquitous in interior spaces and even more so in green design. We see it as walls and demountable partitions, stairways and flooring, railings and balustrades, panels, clerestory, and doors because it does the one thing that no other material can do: lets light from perimeter windows penetrate deeper into the interior.
As I wander around NeoCon next week I know I'll be hard pressed to find a commercial furniture manufacturer who doesn't incorporate glass into its product line--and for good reason. Maintaining a view to the outdoors should be a primary objective of every space design. In many situations successful views are most easily achieved through the use of one material: glass. LEED will even give you points for doing so.
Of course, the only thing worse than too little light is too much. Many decorative techniques, such as silkscreens, textures, patterning, and etching can also be used as glare control or to vary the degree of light transmission, making decorative glass a versatile material for many applications.
How green is glass? As Suzanne Tick phrased it. "If you throw a piece of glass into the ocean, it will come back as sand. If you throw a piece of plastic into the ocean, it will come back as plastic."
All glass starts with the same basic raw materials as a hard brittle substance made by fusing silicates (sand), under high temperatures, with soda ash and lime--all natural ingredients. It's timeless and durable, infinitely recyclable, and emissions free. Unlike drywall or millwork, decorative glass products need no repainting, refinishing or similar maintenance, which eliminates VOC's and irritating fumes from periodic maintenance. Decorative glass also requires no hazardous materials to clean up after installation or during maintenance.
Pretty darn green. However, not all decorative glass is equally benign. Some finishing treatments use harsh chemicals and toxins and create waste. Skyline Design uses only low-VOC, water-based paints and aluminum oxide, a natural mineral, for etching. The company is extremely diligent about energy efficiency and waste and water deduction. Disclaimer: Skyline is my client, which means I've checked them out and really liked what I saw. You will, too.