Residential facade design: Where does it go wrong?
Main image: Phoenix Fenestration & Glass Head Office Staircase using Phoenix WalkOn Glass with Vanceva Interlayers.
Many people in South Africa remain unaware when it comes to glass, glazing and residential facade design. We’ve asked a highly esteemed panel, who have been doing it for decades, for advice, specification and installation of residential systems and some of the issues that they recognise in this particular industry.
Common mistakes in glass and glazing today
There are many issues with glass – some people are doing it correctly, but we see the same mistakes, repeated. These are some of the most common of these mistakes:
Nick Wright, president of SAGI and glass consultant who has also been running his own independent practice for 18 years, says by assisting architects, developers and homeowners with the limitations of this amazing material he found that the buildings they create can be comfortable and cost effective, performing to the requirements of the regulations.
A lack of adherence to regulations
“In South Africa, we have poor adherence to the rules, and because people are unaware or not being informed, the client often gets a poorly performing installation. However, at the end of the day, when you’re sitting inside one of the multimillion-rand mansions and you hear noise from outside, or are freezing in some parts of the house, you have a problem.
Cost saving and payback periods
“There is also the reality of rising energy pricing from Eskom and others. The homeowners may not be prepared to install hundreds of thousands of rands worth of systems in their house, without actually making the passive measures required by the regulations which if taken one step further will increase comfort, moderating temperature inside – cool in the summer and warm in the winter,” he says.
People install underfloor heating and air-conditioning systems, but if you look at basic calculations, your payback for putting double glazing into a house is five to six years. Then it becomes apparent that the higher spec glass is the better choice.
People often don’t know that these kinds of savings are potentially there, so they will rather (inadvertently perhaps) spend a lot of money on cooling and heating the building, while double glazing is available and often the ideal choice.
Wright believes that the industry is failing people by not sharing the available systems and making them aware of their choices. There is a definite lack of awareness about specific options and systems and the benefits of these systems.
Wright also addresses the issue of specifications: “Often architects will design non-standard windows in very big sizes of glass such as 3,5m x 4,5m, which simply cannot be manufactured anywhere in the world. Larger windows are available from processing plants internationally where 3.2m x 9m are not usual but achievable in high light, low heat transmission double glazing. The South African market is not geared up to process these glass sizes.
However, Phoenix Fenestration & Glass has processed double glazed units up to 4.5m x 2.4m, and multi-laminates up to 5m x 2.1m. These larger pieces are being imported for glazing signalling that the demand is there. However, local contractors are installing imported large pieces of glass – we are capable of doing these projects with mega-sized pieces of glass.”
When using the correct window systems and types of glass, you are adding value to your home. With windows sealing and insulating properly, underfloor heating is not needed so much and air-conditioning systems can be reduced in size or run less frequently.
“People are prepared to spend a lot of money on cars – something that usually loses value immediately, but not always on windows that add value to an increasing asset whilst reducing running costs and increasing comfort. If your building costs are R100 million, you should be spending at least R10 million, or 10%, on your windows,” he says.
Installation of residential systems
Hilton Truran from Windoworx Glass Spaces says: “If you make a double-volume curved glass screen and it’s single-glazed, you’re going to make the house ‘poorly insulated’. You need to understand that jumping from a single-glazed facade to a double-glazed facade will be more expensive, but possibly unavoidable if you want the aesthetics with the performance.”
Truran specialises in frameless glass installations, primarily in the residential sector, taking on work that other contractors avoid due to the complexity involved such as spiral staircases, curved facades, frameless glass and imported systems.
Justin Turck from Phoenix Fenestration & Glass, a specialist in all aspects of glass manufacturing, including bullet resistant glass, double glazing, toughened laminates and so on.
Turck says: “When you are dealing with a high-end customer, money is not necessarily the primary concern, but educating the client is key, they can only make decisions based on the information they are given, if you are able to communicate and demonstrate the benefits a product can offer, the client can make an informed decision, but the everyday homeowner doesn’t have access to this information and is often quoted on double glazing as a ‘sales pitch’ not knowing there are many different products that can be used within a double glazed unit such as a low e glass, solar control glass, security glass, sound control glass etc – all based on the clients requirements and the location of the residence. Many people are sold on double glazing, but then, for example the installer is using clear-to-clear toughened glass which has little to no intruder resistance, and a high performing single glazed laminate would most likely perform far better – so people need to be educated to make enlightened choices and get on board with a professional team that is there to help in achieving the best solution in line with a set budget.”
According to Turck, there has been a steady rise in the demand for luxury glass products such as rim flow infinity glass pool panels and walk on glass bridges.
“Customers are requesting a bit of everything. They want bullet resistant glass, glass bridges, glass tunnels, underwater windows, glass pool bottoms, glass rim flows, curved glass and even double glazed curved glass skylights.
“In fact, some of the projects we are working on with Windoworx in Zambia are very technical with lots of curved glass being used in the facades and internally,” Turck says.
He continues: “The double glazed curved units we built for Hilton are the biggest made in South Africa to date.”
Truran adds, “High-end clients in Zambia are probably more interested in aesthetics than performance. They don’t really care if they’ve got to run their heating system to keep warm. They’re more worried about having a home that makes a statement. “
“In one of the high-end homes, there is a glass terrarium room that has a koi pond below with a massive glass retainer panel manufactured by Phoenix enabling the homeowner to see the koi swimming from his dining room. It has a glass bridge running over the top of this pond, in the same home, there is a completely enclosed glass passage using high impact resistant glass that has glass floors too.
“We’ve learned a lot about curved glass panels as well, which you’ll see in all our projects completed in Zambia and throughout South Africa. Truran always pushes the limits in terms of size.
European systems and their benefits
Truran says there is an influx of European systems coming into South Africa because of a higher demand. “Looking at the market, many companies are starting to bring in more from Europe and people are requesting more imported products.
Another issue is that many companies brought in systems, and they try to work with these systems for two to three years and then dump it. Rather work with a reputable company, who have stood the test of time and is very well supported.”
He says that unfortunately the local aluminium systems have become thinner and are limited in what they can do.
Increased interest in safety glass
Turck says there is currently a big increase in bullet-resistant glazing, with the bulk being cash in transit vehicles, personal concealed armament, military vehicles and guard houses, the increase in demand following the looting and riots in SA. “Security glazing or bullet-resistant glazing as well as double-glazed security glazing products are now a big industry, as people gear to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Safety glazing has become paramount in Africa. With the increased awareness of people’s own personal safety, the interest has flowed over to other sectors like the automotive industry. Companies such as Ford for example, has financing in place for your safety that when you buy a Ford Ranger, you have the ability to include the armouring of that vehicle in your finance to the relevant protection such as level B6 for example, making it more affordable for anyone who is security conscious.
Full acknowledgement and thanks go to Nick Wright (SAGI), Hilton Truran (Windoworx Fenestration) and Justin Turck (Phoenix Fenestration & Glass) for the information in this editorial.