Top Tips for Glazing Links

We recently were asked to contribute to an article in Homebuilding & Renovating on Glazed Links. These are an increasingly popular method to stitch old and new buildings together, as they offer an exciting design ‘moment’ in any dwelling, but they also bring some challenging aspects to be considered.

The beauty of using a glazed link it is allows the history of the building to be clearly read, highlighting a clear addition without any visual distractions. Done well these links can really complete an extension. If you are looking to link your building to a new element here are my top 5 things you should consider:

  1. Research your team; it is important that your Architect, Engineer and specialist glass supplier have a good track record with delivering similar structures. The Architect you work with can make or break the overall outcome of your project, many who have experience in incorporating such elements will also know the best structural engineers and specialist suppliers to appoint – so pick your team carefully.
  2. Check if you need planning; it is always essential to consult with planning and building regulations and seek approval before you start on any project, you might also need to consider if you need to speak to a Conservation Officer (should your property be situated within a conservation area or AONB.) They are there to advise and protect any heritage assets within a defined area, they will judge any proposal on its merits and in many cases, they look favourably on such pure, transparent structure. 
  1. Think about the orientation of the space; if your space faces due south you need to take this into account to reduce overheating. There are design methods that can cut out solar gain, such specialist coatings, designed structural solar shading and, or creating some elements to open to allow ventilation. If the link faces due north, then I would recommend that the link is total glass, for 100% transparency, to allow for maximum light penetration into the space.
  2. Think about the roof design; in such a structure you have a choice of the roof you incorporate, glass, solid or incorporating a mix, which will impact on budget and ongoing maintenance needs. If you opt for a glazed roof, which is the costliest, then it should never be totally flat, in order to shed water, a minimal slope of approx. 3 – 5 degrees must be used. I would also recommend adding a specialist coating to assist with maintenance and reducing residue left on the glass. If you go with a solid insulated roof (flat or pitched) you allow for reducing cost but the key challenge is incorporating anything other than glass successfully into the structure. There could be an opportunity to incorporate both, that might employ the use of central glazed roof light or lantern to draw light into the centre of the link. Personally, if budget permits, then the best solution will always be to deliver a total and complete seamless and elegant glass box, walls, roof and supporting elements.
  3. Think about how you might hide the structure; to create a seamless space, you need to consider how the glazed link will be installed into the adjacent walls and what type of structure may be required. The best solutions are where you are able to hide or conceal supporting frames. So that the glass reads as the only entity by simply slotting into the steal or aluminium frame and are then fixed in place with structural silicone. When considering the structure, this will ultimately come down to budget, as using steel or aluminium framing is a standard way of supporting the glass. But if your budget allows, you could use glass as the supporting structure.

If you are looking for inspiration, there are many architects and engineers who have pioneered glass technology over the past 30 years. Rick Mather Architects produced a wonderful total glass space back in 1992. More recently Eckersley O Callaghan has become the leading engineer in the world on glass technology.

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