Volume 33, Number 7, July 1998


Trend Setting

by Brian Wright

Innovations in glass block since its resurgence in the early 1980s contradict its status as a trend. Our dependence on glass block for its versatility in both design and function is more commonly recognized.

Acrylic block has been used successfully in locations in which glass block had not been previously used, such as operable windows and round or angled top windows. There are some concerns that a contractor must overcome. First, architects and homeowners who typically request glass blocks because of its perceived value may perceive plastic as an inferior product. Second, acrylic blocks don’t have the high level of durability that glass block has. Glass cleaners for routine maintenance often dull the original finish.

The future of glass block is promising, and the best installation methods on the horizon rely upon the vinyl and glazing industry.

Trendsetting Applications

Application: Shower Enclosures
Benefits: Doorless entries, easy maintenance, endless design possibilities and passive light transmission.
Innovations: Since the early 1980s, glass block manufacturers have expanded their product offerings to include 45- and 90-degree angled blocks or radius blocks.

Applications: Exterior Windows (e.g., tub windows, sidelights, transom and zero lot line windows)
Benefits: Privacy patterns block out the ability to be seen as well as unsightly views, while allowing natural light in.
Innovations: Vinyl wrapped glass block windows are now available as fully manufactured windows with a built-in weep system. These windows can be locally fabricated in most areas and are ready to nail in place like conventional windows. Easily assembled systems in extruded vinyl allow even a novice to install without the mess or hassle of mortar.

Applications: Floor Systems (horizontal glass pavers)
Benefits: Interior skylights allow passive light from one level to the other while acting as a walkway or, when used on exteriors as a load-bearing floor, can be incorporated in the most demanding situations
Innovation: Pre-fabricated floor systems are manufactured with steel or concrete support girds and are ready to crane into place (for exterior or interior use). Aluminum grids are available for easy sight assembly (interior use only).

Applications: Back-Lit Feature Walls (e.g., bar bases, stair raisers such as tub or Jacuzzi deck risers, partition walls and light columns)
Benefits: Allow the ability to use unconventional surfaces to provide lighting to entertainment spaces, bathrooms, walkways or driveways.
Innovations: A recently introduced vinyl track provides an assembly system for glass block while allowing fiber optics to be run between blocks to light them in colors.

Applications: Fire-Rated Glass Block Windows
Benefits: Provide a 45-minute fire-rated assembly with little constraint on size limitation while offering a variety of privacy patterns. Competitively priced against installed 45-minute wire glass systems
Innovations: Pre-manufactured fireguard windows are fully manufactured in accordance to UL requirements and are ready to fasten into place. USG

For 14 years, Brian Wright, president of Seattle Glass Block, has directed the product development group responsible for several new patented innovations of systems and accessories for the glass block industry.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.