A glass corridor between buildings offers a myriad of possibilities: it can join old and new structures, protect a historical building, bring together luxury home interiors, or effortlessly combine contemporary structures. For architects, a glass link provides both a practical and an aesthetic solution to elevate all kinds of projects.
Given the effects of the coronavirus, with more people now working from home than ever before, there has been an increase in those choosing to move out of the city and into second homes in more rural areas. Architects are increasingly now working on high-value historic and listed buildings and this is where knowledge of glass links, and the various different uses for them, is essential.
This article examines exactly what a glass link is, the different ways one might be used, and the benefits that a glass link between buildings can bring to a project.
What is a glass link?
A glazed corridor between buildings offers so much to a project, and can provide so much scope for flexibility when it comes to enhancing a building. For those tasked with working on an historical or listed building, finding a glazing solution which meets regulations can be difficult – but a glass link could be the answer.
By seamlessly and elegantly combining the old with the new in design, glass links can highlight the beauty of original structures, while providing a practical walkway or space between two buildings. Not only do they connect structures, but they can also be used as functional spaces in their own right, which expands the possibilities for any architectural proposal.
The use of a translucent structural material means that this style of extension has minimal impact on the surrounding view from the original building to which it is attached. Sight-impeding framework can be kept to a minimum, to reduce anything distracting from the view (both from inside and outside the structure).
Low-iron glass can be specified to ensure that any blue or green tint is removed from the glass, therefore increasing its transparency and the quantity of light filtering through.
It is worth noting that some heritage organisations require a glass linkway to provide a visual divide when adding an extension to a listed building – this is important insight for architects working on commercial and public buildings, who may be required to work within specific guidelines.
Glass links: the details
When it comes to the product details, glass links offer a whole host of benefits ranging from the practical to the aesthetic.
Visually unobtrusive, glass links are elegantly and carefully designed to create a seamless ‘invisible’ effect, ensuring original aesthetics are preserved. They are intricately designed to ensure the frame is fixed to the original buildings in a precise way, which allows for versatility and movement between two buildings. Links can be small or large, simple or elaborate, and can be combined with moving or opening elements, for additional practical applications.
A single glazed glass link will provide a fully weather-resistant glazed installation (albeit one which might not be the warmest space in the building!), whilst double or triple glazing will allow the glass linkway to become an integral part of the building’s structure: fully-compliant with heat loss requirements, in a design that can be used internally, externally, or even designed as a bridge with a glass floor for maximum effect.
Minimal footings are required, as a glass link can be fully sealed with silicone, whilst flashing will ensure there is no water penetration. Structural glass beams can be incorporated for integrity, and provide a robust yet minimal finish (more on this in the last section). Heat mirror film and low emissivity glass can help to regulate temperature, ensuring interior spaces don’t become too hot or cold, preserve old structures, and maintain a pleasant interior climate, regardless of weather.
What kind of project does a glass link suit?
Whether on a listed building as part of planning permission considerations, or on a modern new build as a bespoke design feature, different elements of high-specification structural glazing can be uniquely integrated to create beautiful links between spaces.
Fixing methods can vary to suit each project’s requirements, with the option to secure all fixings into stonework wherever possible for a completely frameless look.
Perhaps the most effective use of a glass link is in connecting old or listed buildings to new extensions. They work so well because, in many cases, heritage buildings just don’t have the space, structural integrity, or planning flexibility required to meet contemporary requirements (from both the client, and the council!).
Adding an extension to an existing structure can often raise interesting challenges, particularly if the building is fragile. A glass link offers both an aesthetic division, and also a physical buffer between the varying architectural and construction standards between the two, while preserving original and historical integrity.
Different ways of using a glass link:
Depending on the project you are specifying for, you might be considering the different ways you can create a sense of connection and cohesion. Glass links are the ideal solution for a range of architectural challenges, and will provide a tangible sense of luxury and uniqueness.
For projects that require new designated walkways, a glass link is a fantastic addition. One of our favourite Cantifix projects, aptly named ‘Stepping Stone House’ , involved a beautiful outbuilding built on stilts over a lake, connected to the main house by a frameless glass bridge over the water. The main glulam structure used repeated sections, meaning the building is essentially modular, and could be elongated or shortened depending on the space available. To give the bridge a completely frameless effect, the glass was chased into the brickwork – particularly tricky when the old brickwork was not straight or level, due to the foundations in water!
For a truly unique architectural glass solution, a glass bridge link is undisputedly special. Another of our projects, Walkers Court, is the world’s first and only two-storey frameless glass bridge, using our first curved, sliding Pureglaze door. Forming part of the redevelopment of the historic Walkers Court district of Soho, this project also featured a huge glass wall spanning 7m vertically.
Glass links to introduce natural light
In today’s modern world, we’ve become hugely dependent on artificial light – to the detriment of our physical and psychological health, and our overall productivity.
Exposure to natural light helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, improves our circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, helps us to focus, enables us to get more done, and even makes us happier. But according to research, we now spend close to 90% of our lives indoors – making it difficult to experience the benefits of natural light, as we simply aren’t getting enough of it.
A glass link incorporates health-boosting natural light into your designs, and creates bright and open spaces. We’ve talked extensively about the health benefits of natural light and having a glass link can help to improve your physical and psychological health, and overall productivity.
What roofs can be used on a glass link?
There are two options when it comes to fitting a roof onto a glass link – a glass roof, or a solid roof.
Although fitting a glass roof onto a glass link might initially sound like a challenge, it isn’t so very different from any other structural glass roof design, so the technical details remain relatively similar. The main difference is that the roof will need to blend seamlessly with the glass link structure, particularly if aesthetics are the primary driver for this choice of installation..
If the glass roof for the glazed link you are specifying is made up of multiple panels, then you may need to plan for internal supports below the structural silicone joints, between each glass unit. As a general rule, you’ll need internal support if the joints are over 1.3m. These internal structural supports can be made from a range of materials, depending on the look and design of the building. If your client is asking for an entire glass design, then a glass beam supporting structure is the support system you will need. For maximum strength and security, these glass beams will be created using multiple layers of low iron glass.
If you’re specifying a solid roof on a glass link design, then you will need to work alongside the glazing supplier and the builder to create the structure. A solid roof might not be as aesthetic as a glass roof, but it can offer privacy if there are overlooking properties.
Glass Links: final thoughts
Glass links are a fantastic way to seamlessly connect the old with the new. As a material, glass is one of the most sympathetic and versatile materials to bring the old and new together in both traditional and modern architecture; it can give prominence to traditional features while creating contemporary spaces.
Whether it’s a glass link corridor, or a small and discrete glass link, a ‘new-to-old’ design can create an almost invisible transition between structures. Linking old buildings with modern designs can present a challenge, but here at Cantifix, we take the time necessary to design the most suitable and beautiful installation possible.
If you are looking to include a glass link on a client’s project, get in touch with us for help and guidance on the right solution for you. Our specialists can assist with any specification enquiries to maximise your project’s potential.