Volume 50, Issue 5 - May 2015

An Inside Job

Uptick in Interior Work Tests Glaziers in New Ways

By Nick St. Denis

Contract glaziers say the use of glass in interior applications has been increasing, as it can help allow more natural light into the building.

What’s Inside?
Top Products for Interior Glass Applications

✔ Etched glass
✔ Images within glass
✔ Backpainted glass
✔ Switchable glass
✔ Mirror-to-TV technology

The sky’s the limit with architectural glass. And that applies to interior glazing, too… even if there is a ceiling above it.

“It’s still on the rise,” says Ryan Gagne, project estimator for Galaxy Glass & Aluminum in Manchester, N.H., of interior glass applications. “Especially with renovations, making [existing buildings] fresh for new clients.”

Gagne knows a thing or two about the subject; interior glass makes up roughly 40 percent of Galaxy’s business. And, as he points out, the retrofit market has been ripe for these makeovers.

He says the recovering construction economy has resulted in “owners coming to the table with projects that are ready to go,” and that he’s now seeing more new construction, a sign that the industry is rolling on all cylinders.
“There’s more that can be done with glass today than ever before,” says Jim Gulnick, engineering director of McGrory Glass, based in Paulsboro, N.J.

And with the increased demand for unique applications, interior glass poses challenges for the glazier, as well as the fabricator.

Hey, Big Spender

Art glass for interior applications doesn’t come cheap.
Experts say you can spend anywhere from
$50 to $200
a square foot for this material.

Conference room and office walls are popular locations for interior glass projects, which make up a large share of Galaxy Glass & Aluminum’s work.

Demand for Perfection

“The quality and every detail of the workmanship has got to be absolutely top-notch, since people can get right up close to interior glass work, as compared to seeing exterior glass only from a distance,” says Barbara Kotsos, director of marketing at Giroux Glass, based in Los Angeles. “And in residential installations, emotions come into play because homeowners tend to be passionate about their own home interiors and demand that perfection.”

Interior glazing also poses significant logistical challenges, such as getting large lites of glass to the installation location.

“Getting a 10-by-10-foot piece of glass to its ultimate intended site means a group of guys transporting it with suction cups through stairwells—they typically don’t fit into elevators,” says Kotsos. In fact, stairwell restrictions for a job on the 52nd floor of a commercial highrise building forced Giroux to cut down the glass for the project to 5-by-10-foot sizes so it could be carried up all the flights.

Accessibility is a key challenge for interior glass installation in commercial projects, as the installer often has to work around businesses hours—even if that means nights or weekends. Those limitations are not unique to businesses undergoing renovations in the middle of their ownership or leases, either.

Gagne says, for example, that a new owner may have taken on a mortgage in a building that’s not ready to be occupied, but he or she may have already started getting tenants lined up—sometimes before the work is even contracted.

If those tenants begin to move in while work is still being done, scheduling and working around existing conditions can be a challenge. He stresses the importance of taking great care with the project during that time.

“It’s important to make sure you’re working in an orderly fashion and ensure that all the dimensions are correct, checking things like whether or not the floor is level, etc.,” he says, adding that cost is a big factor with decorative applications. “With art glass going for $50 to $200 a square foot, you don’t want to have to go back and order it again.”

Meanwhile, the demand for speed is still very much a factor, and it falls on the fabricator, as well.

Gulnick says “it’s always been, ‘how much sooner can you do it?’” and that hasn’t changed, even with increasingly intricate projects.

“We’re seeing more etches in the glass and more exotic designs,” he says. “There’s more complexity to the projects, and a demand for more unique products to fit the different environments, but at the same time, there is a demand for faster turnaround time to get it onsite and installed.”

Kotsos says cleanliness is an additional concern that is often overlooked on interior glass installations.
“It takes a special kind of detail-oriented, skilled glazier to take every kind of precaution to protect all of the surrounding surfaces when transporting big pieces of glass into a project site: covering painted walls, carpets, cabinetry, etc.,” she says. “They can leave no mark behind them. This isn’t much of an issue when working outside.

Where’s it At?
Top Spots for
Interior Glass

✔ Office walls and corporate suites
✔ Lobby spaces
✔ Floors and stairs
✔ Partitions
✔ Frameless glass doors

One of a Kind

So what exactly are the applications?

Whether it’s aesthetic, functional, decorative or structural—providing lighting, privacy or aesthetics—interior applications of glass continue to evolve as the building material’s capabilities grow. As that potential is realized, glaziers find themselves working on increasingly unique interior glass projects.

One example of Galaxy’s more “unusual” installations, according to Gagne, was for AVID Technologies’ corporate offices in Burlington, Mass.

For that project, Galaxy built a 3⁄4-inch, tempered glass vitrine around existing steel columns, which incorporated projective and holographic display glazing from HoloPro and Stewart Film. The project also included several custom glass cases that used one-way mirror glazing and internal light to house numerous awards AVID had on display.

John Faour, president of Tampa, Fla.-based Faour Glass Technologies, foresees more applications of images projected onto glass, as well as the use of mirror-to-TV technology.

Faour says the use of images on glass will evolve as more owners and designers find ways to incorporate them into their projects—and as costs continue to become more reasonable.

Anthony Branscum, vice president of architectural sales at Plainview, N.Y.-based Innovative Glass Corp., says he’s seen an increase in demand for combining switchable glass technology with other types of glass, such as bullet-resistant applications for defense purposes or printed glass decorative options.

“We’re getting some more intricate requests than we have in the past,” he says.

A Growing

Interior glass projects
can mean big business.
For some contract glaziers,
it accounts for up to
of sales.

Contract glaziers report they are seeing increasing interest in glass stairs and flooring applications, such as Giroux Glass’ Apple store project in Los Angeles.

Back to Basics

Glass walls are not new, but owners and architects continue to find reasons to implement them into the buildings. One major reason is occupants’ demand for natural light, a key driver of the growing use of glass in interior settings.

“We’re seeing more and more open designs that borrow light from the environment and bring it into the office,” says Gulnick.

“You now have layers of glass walls,” adds Faour. “The exterior is one layer, but there might be one or two more layers inside, as architects and builders want to bring the light all the way through.”

Gagne adds that he sees glass walls and frameless glass doors primarily in offices and corporate suites, and that they now include interesting features such as hidden locks. Those applications continue into the tenant space, he says, as the front walls of the offices themselves.

Clear Trust

Structural glazing has also crept into the interior mainstream as comfort levels increase. With this, technology continues to grow. The term “walking on glass” is shedding what once might have been a negative connotation, translating into more glass floors and staircases.

“There are more and more glass flooring applications and glass treads on staircases than there might have been a few years ago,” says Faour. “The architectural community is realizing that glass is very durable—in addition to being really pretty—and they’re no longer afraid of putting it on a walking surface.”

the author

Nick St. Denis is an assistant
editor for USGlass magazine. He can
be reached at nstdenis@glass.com.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.