The built environment tells a story of human progress, it is the fingerprint of our civilization and an ode to our endeavors. Our collective history is a compilation of discoveries and achievements, most notably in architecture, this progress is clear for all to appreciate. When we consider this, then we understand that it is the architect, who plays the role of the painter and the construction materials are the palette of colors on hand.
It was the dawn of the industrial revolution, which brought on our ability, to produce construction materials such as steel and glass on a large-scale. Fundamentally, this ability altered our skylines forever and evolved our concepts of architecture to this day. With these new production technologies and access to higher-quality uniform materials, architects took their visions to new heights. For the first time, buildings could be designed to embrace the use of natural daylight, as glass became the glazing material of choice.
It’s been 200 years since this revolutionary step forward in our architectural progress, and yet today, in an age of renewed space travel – we still rely so heavily on glass? What happened, why does the building industry still turn to glass as their primary source of glazing, when advanced material technologies, have moved far beyond? This is a question that can be turned on its head, when we consider, what alternatives are there available to us, which can take our architecture forward in the 21st century.
The race to produce advanced building materials that can outperform their traditional counterparts has brought us a variety of light-weight thermoplastic polymers, often adopted within high-tech industries. Pioneered by Bayer, Makrolon is a high-end polycarbonate thermoplastic material, which delivers on the promise for future-proofed glazing. So what exactly is a polycarbonate polymer and why do we believe it to step forward from glass? To delve into this, we must consider the metrics we use to evaluate glass used within the construction industry, in the first place.
For modern glazing to be effective and of useful purpose, the material of choice needs to provide us with the following 11 attributes:
- Thermal Efficiency
- Solar Performance
- Green Rating
How does a polycarbonate thermoplastic stack-up against the old glazing standard of glass, when compared along with these attributes? Let’s have a look…
Polycarbonate panels can be extruded, clear as glass or completely opaque and every shade of translucency between.
A polycarbonate panel, pound for pound, is 200 times stronger than tempered glass, which provides immense resistance to environmental impact.
Durability is a combination of several factors that determine the material’s lifespan, and when polycarbonate is co-extruded with advanced inhibitors, the material will last a building’s lifecycle.
How does a panel adapt to the environment and to the demands of the project? How about the ability to be curved organically and take the shape of the building. Fortunately, polycarbonate polymers achieve this flexibility without compromise.
Polycarbonate panels are offered in a spectrum of color, finishes, profiles, and shapes that are unmatched by any other form of glazing.
Why are polycarbonate thermoplastics used for bullet-proofing solutions, because, of its inherent strength and resistance to shattering? Used for safety glasses, riot gear and in sports equipment, again because polycarbonates are non-flammable and safe.
Even though polycarbonates are inherently much stronger than glass, they are also less than half of the weight of the traditional option.
Thermal efficiency is becoming more important in our modern-day buildings, and when a polycarbonate thermoplastic is extruded into a multicell structured panel, superior U-values below 1.0 Ug (W/m2.K) are achievable.
For a building, keeping the sun at bay translates into lower HVAC costs and a leads directly to a H.Q.E (high-quality environment). When a polycarbonate building panel is co-extruded with a Low-E or reflective finish, SHGC figures below 0.2 are possible.
A green rating is one of the new Gold standards that a 21st-century glazing system must achieve. When compared to glass, the production of polycarbonate panels creates a much smaller carbon footprint. This extends itself right from the factory floor, all the way to transportation and delivery on site.
So we are able to clearly establish that when comparing an advanced polycarbonate thermoplastic panel, directly against its old-world glass counterpart, building material science – has moved us much further ahead. This thermoplastic polymer provides us with a glazing option that is stronger, lighter, more efficient, more durable, has more variety and that is ‘greener’ for the environment. This brings us back to the concept of architects playing the role of a painter, as it becomes obvious that polycarbonates bring to life, a whole new spectrum of vivid colors to our palette.
By Dayne Scrowther
Dayne Scrowther, is an architectural consultant, who represents Danpal in their business development efforts.
Danpal brings this same technology to the global market, providing a unique system based solutions for roofing, cladding, facades, interiors and outdoor shading.