THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF GLASS

September 16, 2019

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Glass windows offer homeowners access to natural light, enhance the beauty of a home and can improve a home’s energy efficiency. Glass is also a key component of commercial building construction, and a prominent feature in some of the world’s most impressive skyscrapers today.

The window, door and wall systems used in modern architecture can create a huge impact in any residential or commercial design. But glass has been an important feature of home design for centuries now.

History of Glass Design Through the Centuries

Romans were likely the first to use windows in home building, using cast glass in the openings to allow light indoors. The process for making glass was developed sometime around 100 AD in Alexandria, Egypt. Blown glass jars were flattened into sheets, resulting in thick pieces of glass for the windows.

This technique didn’t allow for much visibility through the cast glass, so methods for glass making evolved over the years. Thinner, more transparent rectangle panes were developed by cutting through one side of a blown glass bottle. This method allowed people to build with bigger, taller glass windows in their homes, using mullions to vertically support the glass.

Mullioned glass windows became a popular trend in the middle ages: They were a sign of wealth and an attractive design feature in European homes for several centuries.

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New methods for using blown glass were developed around the world, and crown glass windows grew to be a popular feature in English homes in the early 17th century. Windows were made by blowing glass into a "crown" or hollow globe, then flattening the glass into a disc.

But the early 1800s brought the Industrial Revolution and the invention of a hand-operated glass bottle machine, ending the tedious process of blowing individual pieces of glass. The first semi-automatic bottle machine was invented just a few decades later in the 1870s.

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Innovations in Early Glass Manufacturing

Once these new methods and machines were developed for glass manufacturing, demand for glass windows only increased. Mass production of window glass was made possible in 1902 when Irving Colburn invented the sheet glass drawing machine.

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Colburn’s method paved the way for float glass production, a process introduced by Sir Alastair Pilkington, where glass is made by floating molten glass on a pool of molten metal. The result is a uniformly thick, flat pane of glass, and the majority of window glass today is made through this float glass production process.

The window designs and impressive skyscrapers that you see today wouldn’t be possible without the innovation and technology that came centuries before today’s modern methods.

The Revolution and Future of Glass

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Glass plays a huge role in modern design, and its use in architecture and design has led to some impressive structures around the globe.

But the construction industry has gone through recent developments because of climate change and a demand for business. Global and national building code standards now require that the glass used in designs today are highly durable, wind and impact-resistant, and energy-efficient.

For architects and homeowners that still want impressive glass designs, it’s helpful to work with a modern manufacturer that produces code-compliant and energy-efficient window solutions.

Window and door solutions guide for high-end homes. Available for download.

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There are a few features to look for in modern glass designs.

  • Using windows or glass systems with double glass panels will help with insulation in the home. Unlike a single piece of glass, the two panes allow for an air pocket that can provide additional insulation.
  • A low emissivity, or low-e, coating on glass windows and doors will reflect heat. This coating is an ultra-thin layer of metallic oxides that, by reflecting heat, can help to cool off your home.
  • Windows and doors that use thermally-broken aluminum frames help to block out heat as well. Aluminum frames are widely used in window design, but the material is a good conductor of heat. The thermal breaks in glass products like MINIMAL Glass + Door offer help to keep any heat from transferring.
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Homeowners can incorporate any kind of glass design in their home, even using ideas from commercial architecture by designing with expansive glass walls. And by using code-compliant solutions from brands like MINIMAL Glass + Door, architects can find designs to keep clients happier and in their homes longer.

Glass has been a key component in home design for centuries, and with innovations in glass manufacturing, homeowners can find a solution to create an impact in their home.

If you’re looking for more ideas on using glass in your home design, check out our gallery here.

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