What are some current architectural trends in the curtain wall and facade areas?

What are some current architectural trends in the curtain wall and facade areas? Can you think of 3-5 trends?


Trends by nature must endure over time, and incorporate quality and safety -- otherwise, they are fads. They include:

o   Daylighting, a common theme, brings several challenges of anchor and in-between slab-spandrel positioning and fire-stopping.  Hilti North America is making great strides in this arena.

o   Shading-to-suit, another term for electrochromic glass, is an electronically tintable glass used for windows, skylights, facades and curtain walls. SageGlass®, for instance, has invented ways to have entire elevations change from clear to shaded and is computer controlled to manage light, glare, energy use and color rendering.

o   Hydrophobic coatings is another very strong and growing trend. The international firm Enduroshield produces one of these coating for the exterior of major curtain walls to dramatically reduce cleaning cycles which include the chemicals and labor to clean and maintain the glass.

-Are oversized glass panels on exteriors a growing trend? Why do you think people gravitate toward this transparent look?

They’re a growing trend to say the least. Around 2010-11, architects all over the U.S. discovered this with the advent of the German/EU and UK glass-processor market of super-jumbo glass. Not only did they learn that super-jumbo glass can be combined with tempered glass and then laminated to super-size insulating glass units is possible, but it’s greatly desired. The result? It’s an astonishingly unique architectural effect that we like to call huge glass!

People always admire what they do not understand. How is it that we can now have mall, building and podium glass units in excess of 5-6’ wide x 18-20-22’+ tall?  It’s a shock effect of something that’s brand new to the commercial glazing trades. Yet these trends come with challenges. We as engineers and glaziers know just how vexatious it can be to install the entire matter from glass processor in the field to these super-jumbos, and at skyrocketing costs, too.

-When did this trend start to grow in popularity, and what do you foresee for the future of glass curtain walls?

The beginning of super-jumbo started with the Apple Cube Manhattan in 2009-10, yet there are few who are skilled in the glass processing required and very few with the required field installation skills. The super-jumbo trend has now grown to major markets all over the world with ease of shipping glass in containers globally. Super-jumbo will continue to grow and be in demand as more and more architects and developers want that special, in-your-face “whammo” effect. For consideration, the owner must realize the extravagant cost of such as well as the burdens if one of the units break!

Part of the near-term future includes the introduction of solar power capture, store and release to grid glazed curtain walls. There are several firms who are nearing mass production of such and in sizes large enough for true curtain wall. With that come many challenges, but they’re already being resolved by extremely intelligent scientists and engineers.

-How have innovations in fire resistive glazing changed the architectural landscape and the landscape for curtain walls in particular? Has this innovation lead to the development of any new trends or standards?

The wonderful people of both Technical Glass Products, Inc. and SAFTI FIRST have changed the game with the advent of large sizes of their innovative ceramics and framing. Just a decade ago, the market of fire-rated glass was limited to small door lites and sidelites and that was about it. With the introduction of full lite and very large storefront-type sizes, this market will continue to grow and be more and more accepted by both architects and owners, albeit at substantial per square foot installed pricing.