Transparent Buildings


The Future of All Glass Structures.

Fatemeh Pariafsai
Young Researchers and Elite Club, Yadegar-e-Imam Khomeini (RAH) Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.


When the visual presence of materials decreases, the maximal transparency creates astounding beauty. In order to enhance transparency, clearer and lighter structures should be used. Although glass is extremely noteworthy as a transparent load bearing material, the structural use of glass is still unfamiliar to architects. Since the advancement in architecture requires knowledge about the path of developments, this study was conducted in order to discern the potential of improvement in glass structures as a result of scientific and technological advances. Through analysis of existing challenges and opportunities, this study aims to investigate the possibility of constructing completely transparent buildings in the near future. The findings indicate that improvements in the field of materials, selection of appropriate forms, the advent of innovative techniques, plus fine-tuning the existing technologies can improve structural efficiency, safety, durability, and transparency of glass buildings, so that the imagination of modern architecture can be realized.


The SG structural interlayer has considerably enhanced the performance of laminated glass both before and after breakage [32, 33] since it is significantly stiffer, tougher and chemically more robust than traditional interlayers [34]. In addition, Sentry glass plus improves the appearance of laminate because it doesn‟t have the yellow tint that can be found in many other interlayers [35]. On the other hand, the SG interlayer completely couples glass plies in the laminate which results in stronger, less deflected, thinner, larger laminated panels [32]. Moreover, the idea of laminating metal within the body of laminated glass has been possible by the SG interlayer (Figure 2) due to its superior flow characteristics [33].

Figure 2. Lamination of metal within the body of laminated glass resulted in thinner joints (top) [36] (bottom) [37]



In order to design with glass, its local behavior under loads must be predicted. This prediction has been made possible through the finite element analysis approach. Furthermore, the advancements in computer science has facilitated the analysis, so that the local behavior of glass under loads can be predicted more accurately and more quickly [10]. For example, the structural behavior of laminates varies between mid-sections and close to supports. Near the supports, the composite behavior is close to the layered limit, so that the laminates can‟t be considered monolithic elements [56]. Since a well-composed finite element analysis clarifies the unknown aspects of laminates in complex situations [27], more dependable glass structures can be designed (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Glass structure (left) [57] and glass load-bearing walls (right) [58]


The safety of glass structures can be boosted by incorporating alternative load paths or sacrificial sheets in the design. For example, in the ATP (all transparent pavilion), the roof panels rest on more than one facade panel, so that the roof panels remain in place in case of complete failure of one facade panel [20] (Figure 8). Furthermore, the rigid grid of beams and purlins can provide an alternative load path in the event of the complete collapse of a column [20]. On the other hand, sacrificial glass layers can protect the core panes of glass beams against accidental damage in order to increase the safety of glass structures [20, 59].


Since out-of-plane movement can limit the load-bearing capacity of glass elements, one of the main concerns when loading slender glass members in compression is buckling instability [60-62]. Elastic joints, which connect glass beams with superstructures, reduce the risk of buckling, thus increasing the overall load-bearing capacity of glass beams [60]. Further, lateral supports along the length of beams can prevent their out-of-plane movement [61]. For example, in ATP (figure 8), rigid connections between purlins and main beams prevent the main beams from tilting and creating hinges between the top side of beams and roof panels, thereby increasing both global and local stability of the structure [20].

Figure 8. Model of the All Transparent Pavilion design [20]


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