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Glass Houses

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The First Influential Glass House

Building an entire house out of glass has fascinated and intrigued designers and architects for decades, but it was only in 1949 that this idea captured the attention of the world. Philip Johnson was the architect of this modernist glass construction on his own property in New Canaan Connecticut. The immaculate design was made entirely of glass in a geometric and proportional structure, complete with flat glass roof. The brick platform supported the eight steel pillars that held the glass intact. The only other material used within the house was a brick cylinder in the centre used to hide the bathroom from exterior eyes. This pillar of modern design was applauded the world over and introduced people to a myriad of new possibilities in design and building materials. The effects of Johnson’s design were felt in architectural works for years to come and after his death in 2005; the house was finally opened to the public. 

Glass Houses
house glass design


Actual Houses Made of Glass

Johnson’s glass house might have been at the height of style at its time, but there are many impracticalities that come with glass houses. The lack of privacy with Johnson’s architectural innovation did not affect him within the isolation of his walled estate and his commitment to minimalism and immaculate design even prevented the use of a pillow on his bed, maintaining the aesthetic appeal of the house at all times. Many of us don’t have the private estate or the time to be as committed to the aesthetic integrity of our homes and issues like cleaning the expansive walls of glass become the most immediate concern. Massive challenges such as keeping such a home warm in winter and cool in summer are also pertinent concerns. Full glass houses, despite being fashionable and aesthetically stunning, have never quite caught on and one of the reasons that Johnson’s house retains its popularity today is that fact that it is still so unique.

Modern Day Glass Houses

With recent technological innovations however, there have been significant advances in the possibility of finally being able to build glass houses. There is something about glass that oozes beauty and sophistication and many of us dream of having such an impressive structure to call home. Besides its aesthetic appeal and dramatic lifestyle statement, a glass house actually has many benefits:

•A home made of glass is environmentally responsive, blending in with almost any backdrop.
•These homes make low energy living easy and are thus kinder to the environment and your pocket.
•Glass houses can easily incorporate state of the art technology that can save you money in the long term and makes life easier.
•Glass houses improve the natural lighting in your home.
•Glass houses now come almost ready-made, in three sections that simply need to be erected.
•Glass houses are in fact exceptionally low maintenance, provided you have constructed it from the correct glass.

But What About the Problems?

While these benefits may sound terrific, especially the fact that you can practically build a new home in three steps, glass houses still come with a myriad of questions and scepticism.

Keeping the Glass Clean: Modern technology means that glass houses can now be built with glass that is self-cleaning. This glass has a special coating that reacts with the ultra-violet rays from the sun to break down and disintegrate organic dirt. When it rains, the same coating causes the water to spread out across the entire pane of glass, leaving it to run off and taking the loosened dirt with it. The glass dries quickly, without any unsightly streaking, basically keeping itself clean.

Keeping the House Warm or Cool: The type of glass used in the build of a glass house can go a long way to eliminating many heating or cooling problems. Low emissivity glass reflects heat back into a room whilst letting in free heat from the sun, making it easier and more cost effective to keep buildings warm. This type of glass helps to actually reduce heating and cooling bills, making your home more economical and environmentally friendly.

How to Manage a Glass Roof: Having a complete glass house, glass roof included, can be a scary thought as no one wants the sun’s rays beating down on them inside. Photovoltaic cells can be mounted on the roof to generate electricity and are angled like louvres to moderate the amount of sunlight that enter your home. The glass can also be etched with a slight pattern to reduce solar gain and add an attractive feature. To avoid sweltering summers you can use solar control glass in your roof construction. Solar control glass helps keep rooms at a comfortable temperature, therefore creating a more pleasant environment in summer than ordinary glass.

The Safety of Living Behind Glass Walls: As with the cleaning and the cooling, the safety of your home all depends on the type of glass fitted. Toughened safety glass can be fitted which is able to withstand deliberate attack of various kinds.

Waste Glass Houses

These days glass houses do not necessarily mean bright, transparent structures. With the recent rush to become more environmentally friendly, scientists are coming up with new ecological building materials every day. Bitumen blocks are the latest innovation in this area and are essentially building blocks made up of waste products. Crushed glass is a common product used and is mixed with bitumen as a binding agent. The mixture is then heated and compressed and cooled, creating a shaped building material that is stronger than concrete. This highly effective recycling method is gaining interest around the world, meaning you now might need to double check what it means when the brochure says “glass house”!

A Compromise

Many people love a light-filled home or having a house with a lovely indoor-outdoor flow, but just can’t quite get their heads around the concept of an entire home constructed from glass. One of the best ways to still incorporate all the benefits of glass into your existing home is to add on a conservatory. This glass structure adds instant style and sophistication to any home as well as an often much needed extra room. Furnished beautifully in natural colours and through the use of plants and decor, these rooms can bring the outdoors in, while creating a light and bright atmosphere throughout your home. Conservatories can be built using all the same glass products as a glass house, letting you reap all the same benefits, while you slowly get used to the idea of an entire home made of this unique building material.

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