By Jenn Danko
Green building remains a hot topic among builders and renovators, particularly in the commercial construction sector. Although both contractors and clients like the environmental benefits of green building, they also like the cost savings that come from using energy-efficient technologies.
Among the most integral components for offsetting heat gain and loss in buildings—while still providing the highest standards of lighting—is an effective glass system, says Jeff Razwick, member of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) and chairman of the GANA Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). While these systems help contain energy and fulfill essential green building certification credits, they also diffuse large amounts of light throughout the interior to improve esthetics.
"We’ve definitely seen an uptick in our Pilkington Profilit™ brand channel glass installations throughout Canada—especially in educational and health care buildings where access to natural light supports green building and occupant well-being," Razwick says. "Given the continued emphasis on developing effective daylighting strategies, we’re anticipating interest in alternative daylighting systems like channel glass will remain high."
John Friswell, president and owner of CCI Renovations in North Vancouver, B.C., and past chairman of the Canadian Renovators’ Council, only recently learned about channel glass. After investigating the benefits, he says he would be interested in using these systems in future renovation projects.
"[Our company] tends to like a clean, modern look with our build-outs," he says. "This type of glass would definitely be something that could fit our needs."
Although the glass is opaque, it still allows light to pass through and can be used in both interior and exterior applications. Its distinct, U-shaped channels can be installed either vertically or horizontally. And some manufacturers offer the glass in a variety of colors and textures with varying degrees of translucency.
The most obvious benefit of channel glass is its ability to disperse light throughout a building, but it can also save users money by reducing energy costs. According to the Daylighting Guide for Canadian Commercial Buildings, artificial lighting accounts for 30 to 40 percent of electricity consumption in commercial buildings.
"The translucent channels can spread out the sun’s rays as they pass through its surface, creating soft, even, and glare-free light with fewer and less-sharply defined shadows than conventional window glass," Razwick says. "It allows building and design professionals to maintain privacy while still allowing for light admission. The channels are available in lengths up to 7 metres (23 feet) so they can create large, uninterrupted, free spans of glass."
You can further reduce heat loss and minimize solar heat gain by choosing insulated panels.
While channel glass is still an unknown commodity for many contractors, the trend toward naturally lit, energy-efficient buildings is changing the dynamics of the glass industry.
"While channel glass remains a popular daylighting material for commercial storefronts, facades and windows, it recently generated a second wave of interest for its unique design properties," he says. "Building and design professionals are backlighting systems and intermixing patterns, colors, and channel glass orientation to create artistic statements and visual focal points."
This is exactly what interests Friswell, who traditionally uses a lot of windows, skylights and glass blocks for his designs.
"A product like this is something that may be used particularly well on the side of houses to bring light in without installing an actual window," he says.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits and uses of channel glass panels, check out the following links: