Volume 26, Issue 6 - November/December 2012

Birds and Bugs
Innovative Developments Protect Birds from Glass and Glass from Bugs
Glass is glass. It has been used architecturally for centuries, providing views, light and protection. That’s what glass is for, right, to see through? Yes and no. Over the years researchers and developers have taken a long look at glass and said, “What if?” What if glass could do even more? As a result of these queries, technologies have emerged that bring even more value and performance to glass—performance that even enhances the already dynamic qualities of glass such as energy-efficiency and security.

In this issue we’re taking a look at some of these developments. While not necessarily brand new, awareness and understanding about them as options has grown due to market and society needs and requirements.

Safe Landings: Bird-Friendly Glass
Whether an old wives’ tale or a superstition, there are some who believe spiders are good luck. Now a recently developed glass product, inspired by spiders, may help bring good luck to birds. Approximately one billion birds a year are killed in North America alone due to window strikes. So, a product such as Ornilux bird protection glass may just be one new technology that could help.

When the German company Arnold Glas developed Ornilux, spiders were the inspiration. According to Lisa Welch, who works in sales and marketing for Arnold Glas North America, the development was based on a theory by which you look to nature to solve human problems. Developers, she explained, looked at a web and how spiders use ultraviolet (UV) reflectance to alert birds of their webs. “They looked at how spiders and birds coexist in similar environments,” she says. “Ornilux is a coating; a pattern UV reflective coating that is manufactured similarly to other sputter coatings,” says Welch. “The issue with bird collision is that birds don’t recognize glass as a barrier. Instead they see flight patterns etc. So the way you make glass visible [to birds] is you have to put a visual alert in it.”

She continues, “Frit is a common way, etching is common, but those can be problematic when people want clear glass. So Arnold had the idea to use a UV pattern that birds would see and people would not.”

This was about 12 years ago when the company came up with the idea. The idea was followed by five or six years of research and development. The company worked closely with ornithologists on testing and in 2006 the first generation was released in Germany. The second generation was released in 2009 and the glass became widely available in North America in 2010. Earlier this year Arnold partnered with Los Angeles-based Glasswerks, which is now producing Ornilux in North America.

“We believe this is a major issue,” says Ed Rosengrant, Glasswerks vice president of sales and marketing. “I was flabbergasted by the stats once I learned about them. So it’s important to help mitigate that.”

He continues, “Many municipalities are forming codes and regulations that will eventually mandate something be done.”

Taking Flight
The glass has seen interest from a range of audiences on both the commercial and residential fronts. Welch says universities tend to have a great amount of interest … “they have offices of sustainability that are watchdogs of what they need to be concerned about,” says Welch. “I think people have explored many areas and the bird issue is the next step in the green movement.”

Rosengrant adds, “Architects are becoming aware of it, too, and we have gotten many inquires from them, as well as from window companies.”

Zoos are also exploring the new type of glass, as it’s being used at both the San Diego Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo.

“We find those who are closer to the environment are the ones seeing the initial drive,” says Rosengrant.

Most architects exploring the Ornilux product do so because the bird collision issue has already been raised.

“By the time they get to me they want practical information on what it is and how to specify etc.,” says Welch. “Architects are a little more informed because they’ve been driven to discuss the issue. When you go further down the supply chain the level of awareness is a bit lower. Now, because of Glasswerks’ involvement they will be able to help affect awareness.”

Need to Know
With so many, from architects to consumers, hearing about Ornilux, Welch says there have been many questions to answer. In fact, she says one hurdle they’ve faced is people don’t necessarily understand what it is; some think it’s an interlayer, others a film, etc.

“So the challenge [has been] giving a clear explanation of what the product is,” she says. “And because some don’t understand, they want to use it in a way it can’t be used,” she adds, explaining there is a very specific makeup in how all components fit together.

She also notes it’s important to understand that Ornilux is a coating that is manufactured similar to other coatings. The difference, though, is it is pattered and the … coatings mostly reflect light in the UV spectrum.

Rosengrant adds, “It’s not just a reflection of light, but a ratio of the amount of UV light absorbed and the amount reflected.”

“In our experience in developing and testing it we understand there is a complex relationship between light, optics, coating and vision,” says Welch. “We’ve found you can’t just take a monolithic piece of glass and pair it with any coating or tint and now it will be reflective and work.”

Adding to that, she explains that finished units are also tested with the different low-E coatings available and specified for the project.

Testing is ongoing. Spring and fall are bird migration seasons and Welch says that each season they test different thicknesses, etc. to find an even wider range of configurations. The product can be used in many glass types, including insulating, laminated and more.

And what about the cost? As with some other specialty/value-added products, it is more expensive, “but not necessarily more expensive than other ways people might choose to achieve similar affects,” says Welch. “Often ceramic frit is used, but that results in a visible change in the aesthetic of the structure. This is very subdued and blends with the structure’s look.”

Keep it Clean:
Anti-Microbial Surfaces

From hospitals to kitchens, many environments demand the cleanest surfaces possible. So, how can architects and owners ensure a spotless surface when using glass? Aside from a host of off-the-shelf cleaners, some companies have gone steps further and developed treatments that can be applied to glass, either at the fabrication stage or onsite.

The ClearShield System from Ritec International Ltd., for example, is one option. The system, which was developed for the renovation, protection and maintenance of both new and installed glass, can help make glass surfaces easy to clean, and also results in anti-microbial benefits.

As Stephen Byers, founder and president explains, the system makes glass non-stick so it’s easy to clean and keep clean. This, in turn, can help reduce or eliminate the adhesion and growth of germs or microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Byers says the system makes the surface chemically inert or neutral so dirt cannot bond, reducing breeding grounds and making disinfection more effective.

Byers explains that those in the architectural field working on any application where hygiene is number-one priority are increasingly interested. This goes everywhere from kitchens and bathrooms to healthcare environments and cruise ships. In fact, Byers says cruise ship architects are really catching on to the product.

“They’ve heard of/had bad experience with the norovirus. So, they are tuned in now because of all the publicity,” says Byers.

“What we mean by anti-microbial is all types of bugs—virus, fungi and bacteria. It doesn’t kill the microbe, but by making the surface a non-stick surface it deprives the bug of a place to hang onto so it makes disinfecting easier. The bugs have no place to adhere, feed or breed,” he says. “We recently introduced a water-based disinfectant that will kill any bug, but is very safe. It’s not self-cleaning, but give it a spray and it kills what’s on the surface. You can make the surface 100-percent bug-free.”

You might not think the architectural market is a key focus for Ritec, but, in fact, the company puts a great deal of effort here.

“We work with architects and specifiers all over the world,” says Byers. “Our core business is working with them.” He explains that while his company is basically selling “a non-stick, easy-to-clean coating … you still have to maintain it, but it keeps the added value, appearance and works like Teflon.” These are features and benefits appealing to many in the architectural community, Byers says.

Much like the American Institute of Architects continuing education courses, Byers adds that he does similar presentations in the U.K. as well as other countries around the world.

Digging In
Though the ClearShield product has been available for about 30 years, it is still a new concept for many architects. And when exploring new-found products, architects are also likely to have questions.

“The first thing architects want is an indication of what [the product] means in terms of budget,” says Byers, explaining that it’s typically about 1-2 percent of the total installation value. “So, it’s a small part,” he says.

He also says there has been interest surrounding the product’s energy-related benefits. Unlike other glazing products, while this one can be an energy saver, the savings do not come from the product itself, but rather from the fact that the surfaces no longer have to be cleaned as frequently as those that have not been treated.

“Basically, if you take all the energy requirements for washing windows in a high rise building [for example], from the time the washer gets into the van to drive to the site … the fuel he uses to get there, the manpower, access equipment, etc. … these use all sorts of energy to clean the glass and if you take all that we can cut that in half and if you do that you can cut the carbon footprint [of cleaning the building] in half,” says Byers.

As far as other considerations, Byers says there isn’t anything that would affect the design criteria.

“The technology can be applied anywhere in the supply chain, but it’s most cost effective if it’s applied at the source [fabricator level],” he says. “Even though it can be done on site, the biggest cost is not the product but rather the labor. On an on-site job the actual cost of all materials won’t be more than 10-15 percent of the job and the majority of that is labor. So architects want to know who is approved and certified to apply it and how that will benefit others in the supply chain.”

Byers is quick to stress, though, that this technology is not actually a coating. “[Once applied] ours bonds to the glass and becomes a part of the surface,” he says. And as for maintenance? The hopes of a totally maintenance-free surface still do not exist.

“We say that 100 times out of 100 it is easier to clean and keep clean. On average it reduces the frequency of cleaning by half and even if you do get contamination, it’s removed easily,” says Byers, adding, “the main thing is the non-stick concept. It is chemically neutral and non-reactive. Even in liquid form it’s non-hazardous.”

Ellen Rogers is editor of the Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal magazine. She can be reached at or follow her on Twitter @AGGmagazine and like AGG magazine on Facebook to receive updates.

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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