Aesthetics have traditionally been the major motivator for installing glass walls, but functionality is also important. New products offer advancements in both features.
Adaptability Reduces Cost for Reconfiguration
Demountable glass walls increase functionality by decreasing the cost and effort required for reconfiguring spaces. The higher the churn or change rate in a facility, the sooner the return on investment.
“Traditional glass wall construction was done sequentially or progressively. You’d put one piece in, seal it, and so on,” explains Kris Yates, vice president of architectural products at manufacturer Allsteel. “Our walls use unitized, modular construction, which allows them to go up in half the time and be switched out very easily.”
Yates stressed the importance of flexibility in the modern workplace.
“Now I can move a room entirely and relocate, completely reorient my room by moving the door from one side to the other, or open up two offices into one conference room by changing a few panels with minimal disruption,” she adds. “Retrofits are very easy.”
For retrofit projects, be aware of air ventilation, lighting, and safety issues like sprinklers and fire codes, Yates advises. Installing glass walls creates an enclosed space that needs access to all building systems.
Manufacturer KI offers a line of movable glass walls that is stick-built and arrives onsite partially assembled, which contributes to its ability to be reconfigured, explains senior product manager Rob Wittl.
“Usually when customers want a stick-built solution they want a certain aesthetic or the ability to bring natural light into a space, but they don’t consider how this product provides functionality,” says Wittl.
In addition to maximizing daylighting, glass contributes to LEED points by extending natural light and providing access to an outside view.
It typically has strong STC (sound transmission class) ratings of 36-38, according to Yates.
“Half-inch glass is structurally sound, provides privacy, and is more recyclable than most wall materials,” says Yates.
Aesthetics Offer Design Liberties
In office-front applications at corporate, education, and healthcare facilities, interior glass is a stylish choice.
“There’s been a steering away from four-sided walled offices, and the trend is driven by aesthetics,” explains Wittl. “Users want acoustic privacy but also the openness that glass provides.”
Most glass wall systems can be incorporated into any design strategy with different kinds of glass, finishes, trim options, and door types.
“Features can be selected and made more conducive to the application,” Wittl says.
Some providers offer tiles that fasten to the glass wall, enhancing design flexibility and privacy.
“Privacy tiles offer huge design liberties. They can be made out of wood veneer, fabric, marker board, or other materials, and they’re fixed directly on the wall,” says Yates. “The panel itself can be laminated, tempered, or any kind of decorative glass.”
Look for rail systems that hold these tiles and allow users to hang shelves and other accessories. Horizontal mounting rails can accommodate work surfaces, Yates adds.
“You don’t have to limit yourself to just aesthetic solutions when considering glass," Wittl says. "There are systems that offer both form and function."
Chris Curtland ([email protected]) is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.