Paneful tales

Apart from being energy efficient and sturdy glass is a visually beautiful and inexpensive building material says Shikha Mishra.

Ziad Yazbeck
Ziad Yazbeck

Apart from being energy efficient and sturdy glass is a visually beautiful and inexpensive building material says Shikha Mishra.

In the Middle East, glass buildings are taking on dramatic design forms that are adding an ultra-modern appeal to skylines. Glass is now one of the most versatile and cutting-edge building materials available.

The obvious benefit of using glass in building design is the access to daylight and clearer views. Glass is also inexpensive, compared to other building materials.

Due to innovations in production and new techniques, glass construction has become technically simpler and superior. Innovative systems now allow vast expanses of glass to be suspended in front of a series of nearly invisible metal trusses and braces on the façade of a building.

By using glass properly, the consumption of air-conditioning can be minimised.

This new type of glass suspension technique is not only spectacular to look at but is also safer, stronger and more energy efficient.

For people living in the Middle East, the cost of air-conditioning is extremely high. According to experts, air-conditioning accounts for 20-30% of the building costs. By using glass properly, the consumption of air-conditioning can be minimised.

In 2003, Dubai Municipality introduced energy-saving regulations for glass architecture in 2003, which architects and property developers now have to comply with.

"Glass has energy saving properties that enables the thermal insulation of a building. At the same time glass provides natural light therefore cutting the cost of electricity in terms of AC and artificial light," says Ziad Yazbeck, general manager of Emirates Glass.

Glass provides transparency and merges the interior with the outside space. Especially in high-rise buildings, glass is the preferred option so that people living or working inside can have access to a great view. Glass also provides privacy during the day if used with reflective coating.

In the GCC region, spectrally selective glass is very commonly used as it provides a very generous amount of light and good solar control properties.

"We always recommend the use of very high reflective glass for buildings since light equals heat. Therefore, we try to minimise the amount of light, of course to an acceptable degree, as this affects the energy saving properties of the building. This technology is used with the magnetic sputter vacuum deposition process on a state of the art machine where we coat our products locally in our factory in the Al Quoz Industrial Area," says Yazbeck.

Emirates Glass has worked on projects such as the Dubai International Airport existing concourse 1 and concourse 2, Emirates Towers, Dusit Hotel, the Burj Dubai Old Town, Burj Residences, Jumeira Beach Residences, Al Fattan towers, Marina Terrace, Madinat Jumeira, Manazel Twin Towers, Le Reve; and Emaar buildings such as Mesk and Al Yass in the Dubai Marina areas.

The trend among architects and building designers is veering towards transparency and designs that allow in the maximum light, therefore the common use of glass.

The glass business is expanding in the Middle East and more float plants are being built to keep up with the demand. "Glass processor and coater companies are investing in the worldwide market. Our holding company, Dubai Investments, is in the process of building a float plant in Abu Dhabi that will start operations by end of this year," says Yazbeck.

According to a study published on the, glass may be the greenest building material available today. It controls light, letting in the good rays and keeping out the bad ones; it saves on energy costs, providing natural day light; and it harmonises a structure with its environment.

For these reasons, designers have found that glass fits into today's green building environment. The need of the hour is to keep bringing out more energy-efficient and green glass products.

In the study, C Greg Carney, technical director of the Glass Association of North America (GANA), says that he sees product improvements in the years to come. "The future will likely bring continued enhancements in glass coating and insulating technology, as well as the increased use of glass and mirror in interiors to move natural daylight throughout buildings."

Carney is not surprised by the success of glass in today's design environment. "Green building design criteria emphasises the energy-efficient performance of fenestration materials and maximum use of natural daylight. This encourages architects to truly design for performance with windows, doors, and skylights," he says.

Glass manufacturers have to recognise the benefits of developing new technologies required by the energy and green building issues.

But driving the development of new technologies will be not only energy-related mandates, but also the higher demands of specifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a standardised rating system developed by the US Green Building Council, as well as a higher market potential for such products.

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