The once-familiar skylines of many major cities have begun to shift. In many cases, new construction is taking place on what seems like every available spot; more people are drawn to urban living, and so space is at a premium. It also seems like the day of the all-glass, bright and shiny skyscraper has come to a close: Other industry-related articles and commentary have noted that more new buildings in major U.S. cities utilize alternative façade materials as well as glass. Naturally, glass will be used in windows for natural light and access to the outside world, but façade design is incorporating other materials. There are many reasons why this is the case: Architectural trends, the desire to create and design something unique, and also the sheer expense associated with heating and cooling a structure made entirely from glass.
Fortunately for designers--and the people expected to live, work, and play in these new buildings--heavy stone Brutalist constructions with slits for windows and imposing, aggressive façades are (mostly) a thing of the past. Yet materials like stone, copper, and metal plate are effective and striking choices for new buildings. And if reflective or traditionally shaded glass is not the right option as the main building material, what types of glass can work in harmony with alternative building products rising in popularity?
Enter light-gray glass. A subtler design element without the undesirable green tint of many glass products, it can unite performance and aesthetics to satisfy the most nuanced of design needs. Working with this type of tinted glass can allow for more design freedom as it works in tandem with stone, for example, to achieve a certain look that more green-cast, blue, or reflective glass cannot. In addition, light-gray glass can perform competitively; low-E coatings can be applied to achieve a lower solar heat gain coefficient, for example, helping take advantage of the free heat in the winter and keeping a space cooler in the summer.
Aesthetics are the most important aspect of the completed building façade and design, and light-gray tinted glass will harmonize with the rest of the exterior, be it metal or something more unusual. It can always be complicated to match spandrel with vision glass, particularly when a uniform appearance is desired, such on apartment high-rise buildings and offices. Light-gray tinted glass presents a less drastic contrast, and can therefore work in tandem with spandrel glass, helping to achieve a more seamless look.
Since the pace of construction in urban centers does not seem to be slowing anytime soon, designers and architects need to consider the materials they specify more than ever before. To maintain the character of a busy city, new structures need to fit in with the existing landscape. And as all-glass, shiny buildings are diminishing in popularity, more nuanced glass products, like light-gray tinted glass, can maintain a designer’s vision while also enabling the creation of a high-performing building.
Learn more about designing with glass.