Glass Facade Designs for Non-Dwellings

A guide to help specify a frameless glass façade than will enhance any building design.

faceted structural glass façade with thermally broken concealed profilesWhen it comes to glass façade designs, two of the most popular choices for commercial and non-residential buildings are frameless glass facades and curtain walling. Both glazing solutions have their benefits but structural glass facades have more advantages such as wider design flexibility and little restriction on size. 

Due to the flexible design of a glass facade, it is important to carefully consider the options to ensure the right solution is specified for a project. This includes solar control options and thermal performance. IQ have developed a thermally broken structural glazing system called Invisio that offers a completely frameless design without having to compromise on thermal performance.

This article will help with specifying frameless glass facades, as well as exploring the difference between curtain walling and structural glass facades.


Invisio frameless glass façade system VS curtain walling

There are many people who believe structural glass facades and curtain walling are two of the same, but there are significant differences between the two glazing solutions. 

The main difference between the two is the design options. Curtain walling is a lot more restrictive in what you can do, whereas in the structural glass facades there is the option to integrate a vairy of technical glazing solutions, little restriction of size and the ability to incorporate triple glazing for unparalleled thermal performance levels. 

curved structural glass facade in modern office design

Listening to the needs of our architectural clients, IQ developed the Invisio frameless façade system that is multi-functional and has larger capabilities than curtain walling systems.  The Invisio frameless façade is the UK’s first and only thermally broken structural glazing system that enables high levels of thermal insulation whilst offering a flexible design.

Using the Invisio frameless glass façade allows for higher capabilities of bespoke and complex designs, with pane sizes being no obstacle. Curved structural glass panes and triple-glazed facades can be specified using the Invisio system by combining different fixing and profile options. Curtain wall systems are non-structural cladding systems that are designed for the purpose of load-bearing but not integrated into the structure of the building.

The Invisio frameless glass façade system is a fully structural system with the further ability to include specialist features such as acoustic glass for greater acoustic reduction, triple glazing for thermal performance and many more.  

The Invisio structural glass facades utilise large panes of structural glazing which allows the glass to be maximised without interruption, structural glass facades also have neat silicone bonding between the panes and not aluminium framing which creates the frameless look. Structural supports can be added to oversized glass pains to reduce deflection, using supports such as glass fins and steel T’s can be used to support the larger panes while looking cohesive with the system.

Implementation of Highline Systems

While using structural glass for a frameless façade offers the greatest amount of flexibility, a frameless façade system such as Highline provides a similar aesthetic within a more modular system. The glass façade system is designed by Keller and uses the same minimal profiling as their well known minimal sliding door system. Using slim profiles of just 10mm,the minimal windows Highline system is one of the most minimal façade systems on the market . and offers a realistic solution for both high rise residential and commercial projects wanting to implement a minimalist design.

untitled design 4

As well all options come in double and triple glazed versions, to optimise thermal performance, the Highline façade system combines outstanding performance in air permeability and acoustics. As a system rather than bespoke structural glass facade, it is possible to get proper testing results that would be costly to obtain for a bespoke structural glass assembly.The slender glass façade system creates opportunities for minimalist architecture and can support larger pane sizes that can span across the horizontal and vertical planes.

The Highline solution can be specified with glass panes  up to 18m² each with  a max pane size of 500Kg. The vertical mullions have various options from a frameless silicone joint to an aluminium profile to match the integrated sliding glass doors.Due to its design and intension to integrate with the sliding minimal windows solutions from Keller, the Highline façade system is best specified as a single storey glass façade. However, keep in mind that the system has been tested up to 4.5m tall in a single storey so design possibilities are still  expansive. And, higher elevations of glass facades are possible on application


The importance of solar control on frameless glass facades

Using frameless glass facades in commercial and residential projects calls for the consideration of the impact of solar gain on internal spaces. Solar gain can be utilised to form part of the heating for interior spaces but carries the possible risk of overheating in warmer months.

There are many ways to combat this such as the use of external shading solutions or using technical glazing solutions such as electrochromic glass or solar control glass to help maintain a comfortable temperature while creating no difference to the sunlight intake of the space.

structural glass facade with electrochromic glass

Due to the vast size opportunities with Invisio frameless glass façade systems, there can be a risk of overheating during the summer months, especially if the façade system is comprised of oversized panes or is south-facing. Integrating solar control glazing into these systems reduces this issue by reflecting shortwave radiation from the sun away from the interior space.

This coating helps to achieve optimum thermal insulation with many different opportunities for varied colour and performance levels based on the purpose of the glass. Solar control glass is like clear uncoated glass in its neutral appearance, however, there is a range of tinted colours that can be applied. Colours include but are not limited to warm grey, green, black, and white.  

Another slightly more complex option is to specify the glass facade with electrochromic glass. Electrochromic glass was specified within the glass façade design at the Tombola HQ in Sunderland to offer the occupants a form of solar shading. In these offices, the electrochromic glass prevents solar glare and controls the solar gain without fully obstructing the light or views that additional blind systems would.


Integrating opening elements into the Invisio façade system

large frameless structural glass façade for museum in Somerset

The consideration for functionality is more sought after in connecting internal and external environments has become more popular, and design concepts such as biophilic design have expressed the importance of increasing occupant connectivity to natural environments through the access of direct nature.

Integrating opening facades into systems like the frameless glass façade system creates an opportunity for uninterrupted connectivity with the exterior environments.

Opening façade systems also create opportunities for ventilation which is crucial in commercial projects. Slimline systems can be seamlessly paired with the frameless Invisio system thus creating a consistent theme while creating further opportunities for functionality and wellbeing.

The Story of Gardening Museum, seen to the right, is an excellent example of this. Oversized sliding glass doors were specified within the large structural glass facade, which reaches nearly 6m tall and the highest point. 

Combining ventilation into luxury aesthetic projects is as easy as it has ever been due to evolving glazing design, IQ Projects have the ability to create the most captivating opening glass solutions which also creates solutions for natural ventilation.


Click here to download the Invisio CAD details or if you have any questions about structural glass facades, contact the team at IQ.


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Chloe Thompson

After completing her undergrad degree in Interior design, Chloe decided to join the architectural glazing industry and now works on social media strategies, writes content and manages the day to day marketing for IQ's commercial division.

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