Hyalophobia

Do you know what Hyalophobia is? It’s also known as Hyelophobia or Nelophobia. In all my years in this business I never heard of it, until a Jeopardy answer (or question depending on your point) of “What is Nelophobia?” clued me a few weeks ago. Hyalophobia is an insidious disease and can be deadly, especially when it affects architects. And based on what I’m seeing we could be on the cusp of a pandemic if the glass industry doesn’t come to attention quickly.

Hyalophobia is a fear of glass. (Nelophobia is more akin to fear of glass breakage and injury from glass, by the way.) It is synonymous with Hyelophobia and it means fear of glass as a material. I’m afraid we are seeing the pre-cursor to an outbreak among architects. Let me explain.

A recent webinar sponsored by the ComEd Energy Efficiency program and Seventhwave featured a discussion among architects opining that, when it comes to glass and glazing, “less is more.”

Architect Brett Bridgeland of Seventhwave demonstrated modeling examples in which a building with what he called a “strategic” 40-percent window-to-wall ratio (WWR) had a higher Useful Daylight Index when compared to one with an 85-percent WWR.

“The point here,” he said, “is that in most cases, designing the WWR for the sake of saving electrical lighting probably isn’t a valid strategy, and will become even more so as electrical lighting and LED lighting become more efficient on their own.”
Bridgeland added a number of additional examples, opining that having great views is “a more complex optimization problem than just maximizing the amount of glass in the space.”

Now, it would be easy to discount the premise of and comments in this webinar as Hyalophobia. But that would be short-sighted, because the only medicine that will defeat this disease is data. The only thing that can fight empirical evidence effectively is empirical evidence.

Now at this point, I am guessing you are sitting there thinking of the aesthetics of glass and how important it is to a building occupant’s well-being, etc. All true, but that well-being has yet to be quantified. The webinar participants talked about moving toward designs that remove glass from the sleeping areas in multifamily housing since “people often have their blinds shut anyway.” Really? Any data on this either?
Is there, for that matter, an index of all occupant comfort factors when considered against different types of glass with distinct performance characteristics? And do we know what type of glass Bridgeland and his colleagues considered when developing their matrices?

I remember when Scott Thomsen, then president of Guardian, called me to talk about the proposed changes in the building codes that would result in a massive reduction in that WWR. He expressed some surprise that many in the industry did not feel a sense of urgency. I contacted a number of industry thought leaders including company and association heads, sounding the alarm, and we did a number of digital and print campaigns explaining the issue as well. The industry responded, and “battle for the wall” became the industry’s most successful one to date.

Well this time, I am sounding a different type of alarm. The Hyelophobia we are facing is a small virus right now. But it’s going to grow and mutate as viruses do. And if we, as an industry, are not in the lab NOW creating medicines and preventatives, it will eventually best us. We, as that industry, are going to need an arsenal of measures and data to fight this successful. I am happy to help fight this disease. If you want to help, please reach out. This is a 20-year problem, and it’s not a problem that will be able to be solved by reaction. We need pre-action and proactivity.

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