Advantages & Disadvantages of Glass as a Building Material
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According to ‘Jelena Savic et al.‘ (2013) (Published in architectural glass: types, performance and legislation), ‘the transparency and translucency of glass ensure aesthetic beauty to architecture. It helps to create elegant spaces in any part of the building. The way in which light transmits through a glass in a building is so stunning that it has evolved into a powerful tool for an architect. Nowadays, glass is an essential part of many facades and roofs.’ No other material can replicate the aesthetic quality of a glass. It kicks in new opportunities for designer and architects to outline the designs creatively. It forms an essential part of the building designs driving the designers to use it widely.
Glass is one such fascinating material which not only adds aesthetic value to a building but also retains its quality after recycling. It is one of the versatile and oldest materials in the building industry. Glass has its properties as a transparent glazing material in construction. It has architectural applications in doors, windows, partition, etc. Being an open hard substance created by transforming heat to sand or quartz, glass forms an inorganic, transparent or translucent material which can be moulded into any shape. It is a mixture of raw materials like Silica, sodium potassium carbonate, lime or lead oxide, Manganese oxide which is grounded, sieved and mixed in specific proportion and melted in the furnace. It makes an excellent medium possessing diversified uses and properties. Just like every building material has its share of advantages and disadvantages, so does glass.
Also Read: What is Glass & How it is Made?
Listed below are the advantages and disadvantages of glass used as a building material:
Advantages of Glass
01. Visible Transmittance
- Glass absorbs, refracts or transmits light. It can be made transparent or translucent, so it adds extraordinary beauty to the building. It transmits up to 80% of available natural daylight in both directions without any yellowing, clouding or weathering.
02. Weather and Rust Resistant
- The glass is fully weather resistant so it can withstand the effects of the wind, rain, or the sun and can retain its appearance and integrity. Additionally, glass does not rust. So, degrading gradually by chemicals and surrounding environment is not the case with glass.
03. Dustproof and Waterproof
- Glass has a smooth glossy surface, so it is dustproof and can be cleaned efficiently. Also, it is waterproof.
- The glass allows you to connect with the outer world visually. Even when the door or windows are closed, it will enable the light to flow in. Thus, it saves energy and reduces electricity bills. It brightens up the room and enhances the beauty of the home. Most importantly, it boosts the mood of occupants.
05. Insulator of Electricity
- Insulator of electricity: It is an excellent insulator against electricity. It is impossible to conduct an electric current under the influence of an electric field. In the absence of free electrons, it ensures that you are safe from any electrical hazards.
06. Colour Availability
- It is available in wide range of colours, and when we combine the glass sheet in laminated or insulated units, it changes in colour and appearance.
07. Easily Moulded
- Glass is a translucent material which is produced by application of heat into the sand. So, it can be blown, drawn and pressed to any shape and thus used for general glazing purposes in building, shop fronts, building doors, windows and workshops. Additionally, it is positioned in furniture after being laminated with plywood or metal sheet. Hence, it is one of the most versatile materials used in the construction of buildings.
08. Aesthetically Appealing
- Glass provides an ideal way to showcase a product. Glass can make the structure look more stunning, sophisticated and adds beauty to the building. It is used to achieve the architectural view for external decoration.
- Glass is 100% recyclable, and it does not degrade during the recycling process; hence, it can be recycled repeatedly without compromising on quality or purity.
10. Sustainable Material
- Glass respects the environment. As it can recover itself many times, it is one of the sustainable materials also. The integrated system of recycling provides cost-savings and a reduction in carbon footprint, which ultimately results in use of lesser natural resources.
11. UV Stable
- The glass is UV stable since it is not attacked by ultraviolet radiation and hence cracks, discolouration or disintegration will not occur.
12. Abrasion Resistance
- The glass is excellent abrasion resistant material so it will resist surface wear caused by flat rubbing and direct contact with another material.
Besides the above mentioned, there are other benefits to be noted:
- The glass is stable over a wide range of temperature, and hence used for fireplace glass, high-temperature light lenses, and wood burning stoves, cooking tops and high-temperature areas where low expansion is needed.
- It is unaffected by noise, air, water and most of the acids hence discolouration, alteration in the degree of shine, softening, swelling, the detachment of coatings and blistering will not occur. Glass also protects against outside barriers.
- When used in the interiors, glass saves space.
- Glass proves to be an excellent material for thermal insulation, waterproofing and energy conservation.
- It is also with a deep understanding of glass science and by using fusion draw manufacturing process to lead the display industry with its superior liquid crystal display (LCD) glass that fuelled the electronics gadget screen revolution.
Also Read: Different Types of Glass Treatments
Disadvantages of Glass
- Manufacturing of glass is a highly energy consuming process due to high temperatures required for processing the raw materials. It is an expensive material that ultimately adds to the cost of construction.
- The glass is very rigid and brittle material. When it is subjected to stress, it breaks without significant strain. Broken pieces of glass may be sharp, and chances of injury are very high.
03. Impact Resistant
- The Glass is less impact resistant, so the capability of the glass to withstand an immediately applied load is very poor.
04. Etching on Glass surface
- The Glass is affected by external hydrofluoric acid, and hence etching appears occasionally on the glass surface
05. Corrosion Due to Alkali Solution
- The Glass is affected by alkalis ions. Alkali solution dissolves a glass surface, and as long as the supply of alkali is sufficient, this type of corrosion takes place at a uniform rate.
06. Heat Transparency
- Glass offers superior transparency of heat; hence, it should balance with its relatively low R-value (energy saving). R-value is one of the essential factors for insulating.
07. Increasing the cost of security
- Use of glass also raises the cost of security.
08. Unsafe for Earthquake-prone Areas
- It is too dangerous for the earthquake-prone zones. Unfortunately, there is no such Glass which could be an earthquake-proof material, but the costly treatment makes it withstand against earthquake.
09. Low Heat Preservation
- The glass is inadequate in terms of heat preservation, leading to higher costs in the operation of air-conditioners.
- Though many feel that once you provide glass as a building façade, you need not spend much on painting expenses forever. But this is not the case. You may have to pay equally for cleaning of glass. Sometimes, it is as costly as exterior painting. But again, you may paint the building once in 5 years, however in case of the glass, you have to clean it every year.
11. Not suitable for Hot Climate Areas
- Glass absorbs heat and hence acts as a greenhouse, thus trapping the heat. Therefore, it is not ideal in warm and hot climates. It will increase the A\C load and more energy consumption for air conditioning.
- It is a significant problem in the glass facade building.
In a nutshell, ‘Glass bridges the gap between spaces, enhances the quality of space, transmits sufficient light, and also contributes to saving energy. The appropriate choice of glass can even improve the energy efficiency of the building’ as said by ‘Jelena Savic et al.’ (2013) (Published in architectural glass: types, performance and legislation). The above mentioned are the advantages and disadvantages of glass as a building material. Glass has proved to be a building material that drives designers to mobilize it while creating designs in various alternative methods.