Throw the word “glass” into a room full of architects and their imagination will throw out all sorts of imagery — everything from ancient cathedrals made dramatic by stained glass, to the entrance pyramid at the Louvre or a modern glass building; a mall, a commercial building or a hotel, perhaps, the first Vivanta by Taj, in Bangalore or the Oberoi Gurgaon.
Glass can create the illusion of space through mirrors, or connect yet separate rooms where glass partitions are used instead of walls. In addition to its aesthetic attributes, glass is also lauded for being sustainable. This combination of beauty and ecological benefits makes it a popular addition to hotel facades and interiors. Glass suppliers have been coming out with one innovative solution after another, while architects are letting their imaginations run wild with this incredibly flexible material. How you use glass is rapidly becoming a style statement across hotels.
“Glass is increasingly replacing conventional construction materials, not simply because it looks trendier and offers a greater scope for creativity, but also because of environmental benefits, given the ability of glass to capture natural heat and light. This, in turn, reduces the carbon output generated by heating and electrical power,” says Roger Brantsma, general manager of The Hilton Chennai.
Hoteliers will probably be the first to agree that soundproofing is one of glass’s biggest advancements, and this will be most beneficial to business hotels on busy streets. “For the windows in rooms we use sandwich glass in order to provide better insulation and reduced external sound,” Lal says. The guestrooms at the Hilton Chennai feature large-panelled, wall-to-wall windows that are double-glazed with low e-insulated glass panels.
Hoteliers also demand privacy and security, especially in guestrooms, and as a result, many properties have large bathroom windows that use sandwiched glass with motorised blinds.
It is interesting to note how budget and luxury hotels make different use of glass. “Budget hotels use glass with grounding or with sun-control film on them. Upscale hotels use etched glass, flint glass, ground glass and translucent glass,” says Lemon Tree’s Lal. Compared to other materials, glass is expensive, limiting its use at budget hotels.
According to Menon: “At HNG, we have found that budget hotels usually do not go for value-added tinted and low-e glass and facade systems. They mainly use clear glass in interior applications like shower cubicles, table tops, windows and doors. In the last two to three years the trend among upscale hotels is reflective glasses in the form of insulated glass units. Good examples are Grand Hyatt Mumbai and The Westin, Mumbai.”
Menon adds that technology is being used to manufacture items like glass bricks and stained glass, and even coloured glass is being improved with the use of technology. FCML’s Rex Wall Coverings, for instance, has released a collection called Gold; these wall tiles have a traditional gold-leaf decorations within the glass. To achieve this effect, pieces of gold leaf are combined manually and enclosed between two sheets of clear glass, after which a vacuum is created between them. The combined effect of typical gold leaf is achieved, maintained and controlled allowing the black colour of the back painted bottom glass to show through. The edges are lightly bevelled in order to remove sharpness.
Another glass supplier, Asahi India Glass, has released its collection of lacquered glass, called AIS Décor. The company is promoting the fact that it uses eco-friendly paints and comprises features such as UV, moisture and heat resistance. The coloured opaque appearance of this glass is achieved by the application of special, high-quality paint on the surface of the glass, and this is oven-cured through an advanced process.
Moves from suppliers and manufacturers to be creative and push through new products are welcomed by hoteliers as there has been a supply gap in the past. “There has been a shift in glass demand trends over the last three to four years. Earlier, there was a huge demand and supply gap with very limited quality, types and dimensions of glass available. Over the years, more and more manufacturers have entered the fray and the gap has been relatively bridged. Now, there is a variety of glass available, and, very importantly, they come at reasonable prices,” says Brantsma.
Safety glass, which is ordinary clear glass that uses technology to make it stronger, is in great demand for windows. Despite being difficult to break, if it does so due to heavy-duty impact, only small fragments are formed, and unlike ordinary float glass, which forms shards when it breaks, these are without any sharp edges. Laminated glass — sometimes also referred to as sandwich glass — is in demand for skylights, atriums and sloped glazing applications. It resists intrusions because the PVB interlayer provides security to the hotel even in the time that it takes to replace the glass.