The IQ Guide to Glass Façade Design

All You Need to Know About Glass Façade Design and Installation  

What is a glass façade?  

A glass façade is an exterior elevation of glass that ‘wraps’ the external of a building. Glass facades can be created in a number of ways using a variety of glazing systems, including structural glass. The origin of the word façade is from old French and means ‘front face’.  

Glass facades are often the first thing that is noticed about a large building. In addition, glass facades often create the majority of the exterior skin of a building and therefore, the glass façade design and performance is extremely important regarding the architectural design and detailing.  


Glass Façade Designs   

When looking to specify or include a glass façade within an architectural design, there are many glass façade design choices available. Which solution is best for your project will depend on further aspects of the building design intent and required performance.  

A structural glass façade tends to offer a greater degree of flexibility than a curtain walling façade system. This means that structural glazing is often used for facades that require a bespoke design or unique features.  

The Gem in Manchester is a great example of a bespoke glass façade design and highlights the broad range of designs available for glass facades. The glass façade was created using a completely bespoke arrangement of steel curtain walling mullions and shaped glazing. The result is a completely unique glass façade design.  

The gem piccadilly

Lea Bridge Library uses structural glass to create a glass façade that slopes up the span of the extension. Curved elements of glass were also included within the façade design with slim sliding doors at either end. The timber structure meant that structural glazing was the best option for the glass façade design in order to ensure a minimal design.  

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What is the difference between a structural glass façade and curtain walling?  

Large glass facades generate light and an attractive elevation to all manner of building designs. When specifying a glass façade, there are many options available. The two most popular are structural glass facades and curtain walling façade systems.  

But what is the difference between a structural glass façade and curtain walling?  

Whilst a curtain walling façade system is the most popular in terms of frequency of use, a structural glass façade offers lots of flexibility of design.  

There is no limitation to glass size with structural glass facades as there is with curtain walling systems. This is because each structural glass façade is completely bespoke with fixing solutions designed to suit the project. This bespoke design also allows for a wide range of performance values from thermal to acoustic.  

Curtain walling systems tend to provide a simpler approach to a glass façade design with off-the-shelf details and pre-designed specifications. As a result, curtain walling systems tend to be more cost effective than structural glass facades however, they do have limitations on size and overall design.  

The Lodge at the Tottenham Hotspurs Training Ground is a great example of a curtain walling system to create a faceted glass façade. The Schuco façade system was used by the team at IQ to create glass walls to the communal dining and recreation areas of the sports training facility. It was the first example of the Schuco FWS 35 PD system being designed as a faceted facade with the details and engineering of this system change being created and led by the team at IQ.  

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In contrast, Rivington Street is a narrow glass façade design created using structural glass across multiple floors. The glass façade was designed as part of a three storey office refurbishment in Shoreditch. Frameless clear glass mixed with coloured glass to create the unique and colorful glass façade.  

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What is the difference between a structural glass façade and a façade system?  

If you are researching possible options for your glass façade design you may have seen many companies offering façade systems as a possibility. But what is the difference between a structural glass façade and a façade system?  

A structural glass façade and a façade system may seem like they are similar approaches to façade design however, they both have fundamental differences.  

A façade system is a pre-designed product that is typically ‘off the shelf’ meaning that the fixing details, details of the glass and frame connections and the glass specification are already determined. A façade system is a solution that typical curtain walling companies might use to create a glass façade.  

Whereas a structural glass façade is a completely bespoke glass façade design. Structural glazing is specified and designed to each architect’s specification and offers a frameless glass design. As structural glass facades are designed bespoke, the details, design and performance of the glass façade can be detailed to the architect’s specification.  

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This double height glass façade in Somerset was designed by the team at IQ using structural glazing. The details of the glass façade were required to be very specific, in keeping with a highly detailed architectural design. The glass façade created the full elevation to The Story of Gardening Museum, part of The Newt Development in Somerset. Each element was designed unique to the project including the glass spacer and connections, the integrated glass doors and the sloping of the glass façade. The glass façade design is award winning, having won the RIBA South West Award.  

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What line loading does a glass façade require?  

Most glass facades span multiple floors and therefore act as a protection against falling and level changes on upper floor spaces. So it is important that specifiers understand what line load a glass façade requires.  

When a glass façade is acting as a floor to ceiling glass wall it needs to be designed to take the weight of a person leaning on it. It is not just the glass that needs to be considered with this, but also the fixing and frame. Line load requirements for glass facades also consider a sudden impact on the glass, mimicking someone falling against the glass façade abruptly. 

The requirements for line loads on a glass façade will depend on the type of building and its use. Building Regulations Approved Document K details the requirements for line loads for glazing on upper floors. 


What size can a glass façade be?  

A glass façade can be designed and manufactured to whatever size and specification is required. If structural glazing us used as the façade then there is no restriction on glass thickness, glass size or glass shape.  

This glass façade in London used a double height structural glass façade to create the office front. The 6m tall glass units included a solar control coating to protect the interior of the reception from overheating.  


Can glass facades be curved? 

Glass facades can be curved when structural glazing is used as the façade solution. Curved glass facades are possible in any size or specification. The tightness of the curve of the glass façade is determined by the glass thickness which is determined by many aspects of the build. 

In order to understand the possibility for curved glass on your project, your glazier will need to see design intent drawings and know the project location.  

Tontine Street showcases a structural glass façade with curved glass that spans over three floors. The curved elements of glazing were designed to mimic the waves of the sea in Folkstone which can be seen at the end of the street. Here, the curves of the glass façade were shallow and easily achievable with structural glass.  


The glazed lecture hall on King Charles Street has a slightly tighter curve to the glass façade. As the glass was on the ground floor and only one storey, the glass thickness required was less which allows for a tighter curve to the glass façade.  

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Curved glass facades can be integrated into straight elevations of structural glass as we did here at Lea Bridge Library.   

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Can a glass façade be faceted?  

Glass facades can also be faceted. A faceted glass façade is often used as a more cost-effective alternative to a curved glass façade. Faceted glass facades use flat units of glass that are installed on a curve, creating the appearance of a curved glass elevation without having to use curved glass.  

The glass façade at The Lodge (Tottenham Hotspurs training ground) used a faceted glass façade created using the Schuco FWS 35 PD façade system. At the time of installation, this façade system was not used as a faceted solution. The team at IQ created a series of bespoke details using the Schuco façade system to ensure we could create the design the architects wanted.  

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Can you use heated glass in a glass façade?  

Electrical glass solutions like heated glass can be extremely useful within a glass facade design to either provide heat to a space or stop condensation. Heated glass can be easily integrated into a glass façade design to provide additional function or comfort.  

The Spa at South Lodge is an award-winning luxury spa and IQ were involved in its renovation project. The new swimming pool area included a frameless glass façade with heated glass. The heated glass was used to stop any condensation from being able to form on the glass façade from the pool. Spa visitors can swim right up to the glass façade and look out over the landscaped gardens.  

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If you are looking to include heated glass in your glass façade design, then you will need to think about how the glass will be connected. If possible, it is always best to connect the electrical glass in parallel however, if space for wiring is an issue then connecting in series is also possible.  


What specialist glass can be used within a glass façade?  

By using structural glass to create a glass façade, you can include any number of specialist glass technologies into the design.  

Southend Civic Centre added a new café area and heated glass in the glass façade was used as the sole heat source. This was due to the lack of other available energy sources to the location of the glazed café which was within a central courtyard.  

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Low Iron and Low E Coatings are popular and well used glass options for a glass façade 

More advanced specialist glasses can also be used in glass façade designs. Anti-reflective glass was used within the glass at Wellington College. Anti-reflective glass sits in-between the stone pillars of the walkway at the listed school. The resulting glass is almost invisible and does not change the appearance of the listed school.  

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How to Integrate Solar Control into a Glass Façade  

With a large glass façade comes the question of how to protect the interior space from solar gain. Solar control glass is just one way to reduce the amount of solar radition that enters a building through the glass.  

There is a huge range of solar control glass from the highly reflective glass façade used at Pentonville Road to the neutral solar control coatings used to the glass façade in Westminster.  

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Can a glass façade be angled?  

Glass facades can be designed as angled, leaning away from the building. There are various reasons why a glass facade might need to be angled. For example, the glass facade we engineered at the cricket ground Aegas Bowl had to be angled to allow for the camera angles of the media centre. The frameless glass facade had to be designed including all of the fixing details to allow for this angled installation. 

hilton glass facade

To create a glass facade that is angled your glazier will need to complete full structural calculations for the glass including wind loading and line loading at the exact angle of install. 


How is a Frameless Glass Façade Installed?  

As an expert and experienced architectural glazier, we often get asked how is a frameless facade glass installed? The answer is that it depends greatly on the glass facade design as well as the project location and other site logistics. 

The below video is an excellent example of a frameless glass facade installation that we conducted at our own head offices and showroom in Amersham. The frameless glass panels were over 6 metres tall and were installed using a combination of manpower and specialist glass lifting equipment. 

In order to understand how your frameless glass facade will need to be installed we will need to look at the project in depth. The team at IQ are available for technical and site meetings to overcome tricky logistical issues or challenges. 

 CPD Seminar on Glass Facades  

In order for architects and specifiers to learn more about bespoke glass facades we have created a unique CPD seminar. Our bespoke glass facade CPD seminar takes just some of our bespoke facade projects and breaks down how we went about designing and engineering the glass facade with the architects. This allows architects A backstage view at how these glass facades come together and help provide understanding as to what’s possible on their next project. 

If you would like to book your own bespoke glass facade CPD with one of our technical team just contact us with your best available date.  

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Taylor Hall-Jones

After completing his A-Levels in Business, Graphic Design and History, Taylor took his interest in both the world of business and graphic design into marketing. He gained his first full-time working role as a Digital Marketing Assistant at IQ Glass and is continuing to develop his skills.