A blog by CR Laurence...Glass is becoming a more prominent feature in office design, with commercial designers increasingly integrating glass panels and partitions into office interior design.
There are a number of key advantages to specifying glass for office interiors, not least the versatility of the material due to its strength and thickness. Able to withstand general wear and tear of the office environment, glass can be used in a variety of ways, from sliding doors to glass floors. Glass facades, including ventilated glass façade systems with an open structure, are now quite commonly seen on new buildings and are added to older architecture as an extra layer of protection against the elements.
Internally, one of the biggest challenges faced in office design is lack of natural light; with lots of rooms within rooms the flow of light is often halted, leaving the interior dark, dingy and uninspiring. In fact, allowing natural light into the workspace has been found to improve the well-being of employees, so it is an important point for designers to overcome. Open-plan offices are spacious and light-filled, which is advantageous when planning compact spaces.
A recent study in the US even revealed that open-plan offices, when designed in the right way, can even improve physical fitness among workers and aid their overall mental health and wellbeing. However, the reality of open-plan commercial buildings is often a lot different, as noise levels are not easy to maintain, and distractions can affect work levels.
The challenge therefore, is in finding a happy medium; a light-filled open-plan inspired space with good acoustics where everyone can work in harmony. Keeping the look and feel of an open-plan environment that is so important, the use of glass enables natural light to flow and a high-end look to be achieved, while acoustics and privacy levels can also be managed more effectively.
One of the potential pitfalls of the overuse of glass for commercial buildings of course, is the effect of solar heat gain; warming a building with the flow of natural sunlight certainly increases energy efficiency and makes for sustainable construction, but too much uncontrollable heat will make the interior uncomfortable and lead to what is commonly known as the greenhouse effect.
This was the challenge faced by specifiers working on the new United States Courthouse in Los Angeles, a ten-story, 633,000 square foot facility with 24 courtrooms and 32 justice chambers. The structure features a distinct cube-shaped design, with a serrated glass and aluminium façade that adds aesthetic depth, while effectively mitigating solar heat gain.
Contractors faced strict construction schedules due to its central location in Downtown LA, so internally an all-glass dry-wall glazing system was used, practically halving installation time compared to a wet-glaze alternative. Circulating light throughout the building due to its use on stairways, walkways and on floor ledges overlooking the atrium below, the dry-wall system was straightforward to install with the minimum of fuss and downtime while ensuring safety was always given priority.
Driven by sustainability, the all-glass aesthetics of the United States Courthouse ensure the flow of daylight is optimised and energy consumption is reduced while creating an open, collaborative working environment.
From a practical viewpoint for specifiers and installers, toughened glass, wherever it is used in a building needn’t be difficult to install or maintain, as is evident in the above example. With the right systems chosen, glass systems can be straightforward to fit, even retrospectively, enabling the open-plan space to be easily adapted to suit changing requirements. Dry-glazed systems, such as the one used for the United States Courthouse, are particularly effective for modern interior designs as they are quick and easy to install, ultimately providing maximum transparency and an elegant appearance.
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