In a construction context the term glazing refers to the use of glass. Whether in the form of windows, or modern innovations such as glass doors, skylights, curtain walls and planar glazing, glass plays a crucial role in making our built environments comfortable places to live.
Glazing provides a building with natural light and a connection with the outdoors. Modern glass and glazing systems allow a building to breathe and assist with controlling light, UV levels and even natural ventilation. Selecting glazing is no longer as simple as choosing a window shape and having it installed. The options now available mean research is essential before making a choice of system that will work for your home.
Once you have decided what configuration will work for a space, you are then faced with two other major decisions, frame and glass type. To a degree your choice of both framing and glazing will depend on the look that you want for your home. However, different materials have different characteristics, which may be even more important in guiding your choice.
The most common materials for glazing frames are timber and aluminium. Framing is also available in vinyl and even fibreglass. In general, aluminium is lower maintenance than timber but timber has better insulating properties. Vinyl door and window frames have been used for some time in the US and Europe due to the combination of high thermal efficiency and low-maintenance requirements. However, they are still relatively rare in Australia.
Before you select a glazing type it’s important to remember that shade structures are the best way to reduce your reliance on air-conditioning. If possible, you should ensure that during summer the sun’s rays cannot actually hit the surface of the glass in the first place. Relying on glass alone to control light and heat levels will never be as efficient.
If you’re stuck with an exposed window, however, your choice of glass is crucial. If, for example, you are glazing a large unshaded west-facing opening you will need to select a glass that has high solar control including a high thermal insulation level (U-value) and ability to cut UV rays. Without this the heat gain through this opening could be extreme.
Other issues to consider include colour, thickness and the various options for obscure, frosted and textured glass. Certain applications, such as balustrades, may also require toughened or laminated glass for safety reasons. The Building Code of Australia sets out these requirements and your glass supplier or design consultant will be able to assist you with this.
The final result will be a combination of many considerations. The right choice of glazing will make a big difference to the amenity of your home.