Architects Guide to Glass, USGlass

Five Things Every Consumer Should Know about Glass

As you can imagine, I spend a fair amount of time discussing glass, and not just in my role as USGlass magazine’s publisher. Family, friends, and almost everyone I meet, asks me something about glass when they find out what I do. Over the years, these very questions and comments have led to my own “wish list” of things I wish the average consumer knew about glass. Here’s my top five:

1. Glass is not just glass. There are thousands upon thousands of different types of glass with distinct properties and performance characteristics. Some, like mirror, are easily recognizable, but most are not. Glass comes in different thicknesses, sizes, strengths and can have multiple panes (called lites) with sealed spaces between them. Glass can have different coatings and inserts, such as wire or laminates and varying levels of reflectivity and transparency, as well as color. Glass is a lot of things, but glass is never just glass.

2. Glass breaks. And some types of glass are more prone to breakage than others. It rarely means the glass is defective. This is particularly true with tempered glass, which sometimes will break spontaneously. I always tell consumers who call looking for someone to blame because their glass table imploded to realize that it does happen. And it doesn’t necessarily mean the glass was defective, in much the same way that a balloon can break, yet nobody blames the balloon. Glass is a lot sturdier than balloons of course, but sometimes it just breaks.

3. Glass wears out. I bet you can’t find a single other part of a building besides glass that people expect to last forever without any maintenance or attention. Even bricks get serviced every few years. But average consumers expect their glass to outlast them without ever getting scratched or pocked or damaged over time. This is especially true for high-performance insulating units that are gas-filled. They can last a long time, but eventually, their effectiveness will wane.

4. Glass is not anything-proof. In fact, there is no such thing as bullet-proof, bomb-proof, hurricane-proof or anything-proof glass, and I cringe every time I hear someone say it. The fact is, there are lots of different levels of bullet-resistant, bomb-resistant or hurricane-resistant glass, but none of these are 100-proof. The manufacturers of these products are very good at letting you know exactly what their glass can withstand, whether it be the pressure per square inch, speed and caliber of a weapon, wind load or other measure. But no reputable manufacturer will ever make a claim that its product can withstand every possible contingency. If someone says their glass product is “anything-proof,” that is a pretty good indicator it’s not.

5. Glass is not an energy hog. As with just about every single building material, it can be—if the wrong type of glass is used or if it’s installed incorrectly. But there have been incredible advances in glass during the past 30 years, making the right type of glass an excellent energy-saving product. You just have to choose the right kind (because glass is not just glass, remember) and have it installed properly.

I have more items on my wish list of things consumers should know about glass, but these are my top five. What are yours?