Glass of 2012
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.
Once a delicate material associated with breakage, technology has today strengthened glass so that it can be used for counters and even on staircases, floors and ceilings. At the Hilton Chennai, Brantsma says, glass has been used extensively with spider fittings in lobbies and for banqueting. The hotel’s façade beams have large areas of glazing, while at Lemon Tree hotels, the use of glass in interiors has been explored in furniture, on walls, through glass tiles and partitions.
For some brands, such as Lemon Tree, or for individual properties, the creative use of glass becomes part of their DNA. “One of the things our hotels are recognised by is the bright, bold stained glass installation in each property’s lobby,” says the group’s Aradhana Lal.
Hotel Sahara Star in Mumbai uses its glass-roofed atrium as a USP. The ITC Maurya, New Delhi, is perhaps best recognised by the glass decor below the lobby’s ceiling. And the hard-to-miss Vivanta by Taj Bangalore, with its blue-green glass façade has already been spoken of.
Glass offers architects and interior designers to use their imagination. Branstsma has creative examples to share from The Hilton Chennai: “Glass has been very stylishly used in the staircase and railing at Vasco’s, our global cuisine restaurant. The bar area of our rooftop Q Bar is made of wooden planks covered by glass, maintaining the essence of it being an outdoor bar.”
With nine out of 10 hotels — business hotels in particular — looking to achieve a modern look, glass is finding extensive use in interiors. “The use of glass in furniture, like tabletops, work surfaces, wardrobes and shelves cupboards, is picking up among hotels. They use clear, tinted, frosted, lacquered and patterned glass for all of these,” says KAS Menon of HNG.
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.
LEED with glass
This might be construction 101 for some hoteliers, but despite glass being a green building material, in tropical countries like India one needs to be careful to select the right glass solution. This is critical for making the most of the benefits it offers.
In this country, we need the natural and abundant light to come in, while keeping the heat out. Hotels can spend from 15 to 30 per cent of their power budget on lighting, and according to a report on green architecture by glassmaker Saint Gobain: “The lux level in direct sunlight is around 1,13,000 Lux, the lux level in shade is around 9,000 Lux, and brightly lit interiors which are conducive for working require only 500 Lux. High-performance glass helps in cutting down excessive glare and brings in abundant natural light thus reducing dependence on artificial lighting.”
Further differentiating between the types of glass required in a location with a hot climate versus locations that are cold, the report continues: “In climatic conditions like India, 80 per cent of the total heat gain is due to direct solar radiation, and the rest is due to temperature difference between the exteriors and interiors. Thus to reduce the overall relative heat gain in tropical climates, it becomes necessary to curtail the incoming solar radiation by the use of glass with high-performance solar control coating.
“Contrary to this, in cold climates the emphasis is on glass with low-emissive coatings to reduce the rate of heat loss from interiors to exteriors.
“The total heat gain is measured in terms of solar factor (measured by the sum of percentage of incident solar energy directly transmitted, and incident solar energy absorbed and re-emitted inside) and U-value (overall heat transfer coefficient or how a construction material conducts heat) and is expressed as a sum of these two components. Heat gain on the inside of a building due to direct solar radiation incident on glass is measured through the solar factor of glass.”
Architects, engineers and manufacturers, aided by scientists and software developers, are building almost every shape and size conceivable, from towering façades to canopies and delicate cubes, made almost entirely of glass. Creative solutions include laminating glass with polymers to make beams and other components stronger and safer. Experimentation continues towards the goal that this could someday lead to glass buildings that are unmarked by metal or any other material for that matter. Of course in India this might take some time as builders and hotels are still becoming used to drywall in construction.
There is also the concept of self-cleaning glass that is expected to make its way onto markets soon. This type of glass has an extremely smooth surface which apparently does away with the requirement for regular cleaning.