Glass Blocks

What are glass blocks

Are an architectural element made from glass. The appearance of glass blocks can vary in colour, size, texture and form. Glass bricks provide visual obscuration while admitting light.

Glass blocks are used in walls, skylights, and sidewalk lights. only used to be used in Art Deco buildings or industrial applications. But glass block and glass brick are making a comeback in the architectural and design community around the world.

What glass blocks are used for (In construction)
Sound insulation
Light transmission -Glass blocks can be used to control the amount of light entering a room and also to control the degree of transparency, allowing for both comfort and privacy where required.
Security – provide the strength and security.
Heat control – keep heat out in summer and keep heat in during winter
Can be used in vertical walls, floors and roofs
Fire resistant
Use them for bathroom walls and windows, as they let in light but provide privacy interior design element – aesthetic

Glass block ideas

They are used in interior decoration for all commercial and residential buildings. Glass block wall panels can also be used in bathrooms that accept the light and beauty of the bathroom.

Can be used for wall cladding work on the exterior of commercial buildings that enhance the beauty of the building.

These blocks can be used to add light and illusion to space in a walk-in shower. Glass blocks work well as windows as they give light.

The Pro’s + Con’s of Glass blocks
Advantages of glass block:

  • Glass blocks permit natural light gentle to cross the window.
  • It provides privacy.
  • They are available in a wide range of options.
  • Also, provides safety.
  • It provides tolerance.
  • It provides good thermal and sound insulation.
  • They are extremely resistant.

Disadvantages of glass block:

  • Glass manufacturing is a high energy consumption process due to the high temperatures required for processing raw materials.
  • There is corrosion due to alkali solution.
  • They are brittle.

The history of glass blocks

In 1907, Deutsche Luxfer-Prismen-Gesellschaft (loosely translated: German Light Prism Company) patented a process to strengthen the material into glass block by fusing two sections of glass into a single unit, later popularising the installation and construction of its range of fire-rated blocks.

Glass block quickly became popular as a building material in the 1930s and 1940s. Most buildings that utilized it were of the Streamline Moderne or Art Deco styles.

Pierre Chareau famously used it in the design of his 1932 masterpiece La Maison de Verre (House of Glass) in Paris.

In the late 90s, French luxury brand Hermès enlisted the of-the-moment prolific architect Renzo Piano to create their iconic 10-story Tokyo’s Ginza headquarters, constructed of 13,000 bespoke square glass blocks.

Famous example of glass blocks

  • Maison Hermès in Tokyo
  • La Maison de Verre in Paris
  • balneario de Panticosa in Spain
  • Deusto Library in Bilbao

How to install glass blocks

Silicone installation:
Ideal for DIY the quickest and easiest installation system it incorporates an aluminium frame, spacers, aluminium stiffener bars for superior strength and translucent silicone for a neat professional finish.

Mortar installation:
The traditional installation system incorporating an aluminium frame, spacers, galvanised or stainless-steel reinforcing and premix mortar formulated specifically for glass brick installation giving neat white professional joints.

The use of aluminium frames is critical for glass brick installation as they allow for the glass bricks to expand and contract independently of the surrounding structure. Because glass bricks are non-structural, they need to be isolated from the surrounding structure.

How glass blocks are made:

Silica sand, soda ash, and limestone are mixed and melted in tanks heated to 1200 degrees celcius. Then a precise amount of molten glass is poured into a half-block mold and two halves are sealed together, creating a partial vacuum within the unit, and then fed into an oven to slowly cool and in the process, strengthen.

Later, each glass block is treated with a special edge coating of polyvinyl butyral to increase mortar bond and allow for expansion and contraction. Each glass block is then tested for clarity and consistency. The glass block unit can be hollow or solid and can come in a variety of sizes, shapes, patterns, and textures.