The Glass Brick Comeback
Blocks of architectural glass were first developed for use in the factory buildings during the 1900s. However, after a brief but widespread use of glass bricks by the glass industry, the material is now being linked with outdated 80’s architectural styles, an aesthetic that few seem interested in reviving. Pioneer contemporary architects have again started using this unique material in new and distinctly modern ways, be it for sleek and minimalist bathrooms, industrial bars and restaurants, vintage residential windows, or even experimental urban façades.
In this article, we study glass bricks and how they made a comeback in the industry.
What is a Glass Brick?
Glass bricks or blocks enable the passage of light, while providing a level of privacy, obscurity, and other insulating qualities such as sound deadening, energy insulation, and fireproofing. Its original patent was filed in 1907, which described it as a process of fusing two sections of glass with a hollow center into one block. This industrial glass is widely used on walls, skylights, and lights on the sidewalks.
Here are some features, types, and benefits of it.
Some of its salient features are:
- They can be altered in various ways during the manufacturing process to achieve distinct aesthetic effects or levels of transparency, including modifying the texture or color of the blocks, generating many shapes such as hexagons, or curving the blocks part of a predetermined construction.
- Glass blocks come in many varieties of sizes but are usually not more than two to three inches thick.
- Glazes or inserts can be added to each block, or patterns can either be pressed into the inside or outside surface while it is cooling.
- Glass blocks are often assembled with grout or sealant, like bricks.
- Some blocks come with assembly systems that provide wall anchors and vertical and horizontal spacers to align the blocks with precision. Using spacers, the blocks are spaced precisely and consistently and then bonded with silicone.
Glass blocks are produced in various types such as:
- Bullet and vandal resistant
Bullet and vandal-resistant blocks are generally solid glass or have very thick side walls similar to pavement blocks.
- Fire resistant
Standard production hollow blocks will offer little fire resistance. However, it is made fire-resistant by specially producing hollow glass blocks with thicker sidewalls or the inclusion of a particular layer of fire resisting material within the two halves of the block during manufacture.
A recent innovation in glass blocks’ production is the addition of argon gas within the hollow center of glass wall blocks. This offers significantly enhanced thermal insulation properties.
Some glass blocks are available in colored variants. Some are UV stable and can be used in the same locations as standard clear glass blocks.
Now let us have a look at some of the benefits for the same.
For a variety of reasons, architects continue to use glass bricks. Glass brick walls and windows, with their unique look and ability to diffuse light, are not only aesthetic statements to themselves but can also improve the lighting and atmosphere of a whole space. Here are a few benefits of glass bricks:
- Privacy: They can be installed in garages and basements or elsewhere where valuables are stored without revealing what items are held. They are also frequently installed in bathrooms to bring natural light without compromising homeowner’s privacy.
- Safety: Glass bricks are much harder to break into than regular windows. This benefit coincides nicely with their use in premises that contain valuables.
- Waterproof: Glass block windows due to their material composition are highly waterproof, making them great investments for flood-prone areas.
- Energy-Efficient: The glass bricks are extremely energy efficient. They not only generate thermal insulation values similar to double-pane windows but perform a better job than traditional window frames to block air infiltration. Therefore, it diffuses natural light and reduces the need for artificial lighting and saves energy.
- Heat-Resistant: Glass bricks are airtight and thus reduce heat transfer. Some glass block windows even use glass with low emissivity, further reducing the amount of heat that can enter through the glass.
Glass blocks stem from a long history of prism lighting and utopian architecture and decorated some of the most beloved or influential buildings of the early 20th century, like the Penn Station of New York. Today, architects are again beginning to explore the aesthetic and material properties of this unique architectural element, pushing towards new boundaries in the architectural design of glass and light. Incorporate glass block windows matching the rest of the home’s design and generate an aesthetic appeal for your property.