Energy-Efficient Material Design

By May 24, 2019 No Comments

Digitally printed frit glass is a sustainable material design solution that offers a perfect alternative to low-e coated glass for diffusing heat and light. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, printed images and patterns can also minimise solar heat gain and UV exposure while allowing natural light to come through. Coupled with a software which can easily determine the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and the percentage of visible light (%T) of a pattern, printed glass offers a powerful tool for controlling the energy performance of buildings.

One of the projects we worked on involved an atrium glass canopy. Our client did not want a tinted coating material design that would distort the colour of the sky when viewing it from below. As a solution, small circular dots were printed on ultra clear starphire glass to provide shading from sunlight and UV rays without obstructing the view of the sky.

Glass printing sample by Visual Glass Tech to test for size of dots to provide for shading and privacy to an apartment canopy
Glass canopy with white dots printed on clear background using ceramic ink to provide shading in Sydney apartments
Glass printed canopy with white dots to provide transparency yet shading in Sydney apartments

The client was very impressed not only at the end result achieved but the time it took from start to finish (7 business days). He said,
“it is unique, provides shading, and especially when the sun shines through – you get little shadow dots on the ground. It’s beautiful”.

Another more spectacular example of using digitally printed frit glass to control light and heat is the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre designed by architecture and design firms, Snøhetta and Zeidler.

20 different patterns were created which varied in opacity and shape in order to control the level of light that shone through the windows. These patterns were then scattered across the façade according to the function of each floor and how much sunlight was required.

Effect of geometric patterns printed on glass of window and building façade on the amount of lighting that enters the space
White geometric pattern printed on building façade of Ryerson University Student Learning Centre to control level of lighting
Ryerson University Student Learning Centre using printed glass for light control, aesthetics and privacy on windows

This project won the Glass Magazine Award 2015 – as a project with the most innovative decorative glass.

“Functioning like cloud cover, the frit modulates the light quality to range from ‘overcast’ to ‘partly cloudy’ to ‘sunny’ to further diversify the interior conditions and allow students to have a different experience every time they visit the building… The varying façade pattern controls heat gain into the building…” – Snøhetta

The ability to allow sunlight to shine through while blocking unsafe UV rays out means that shading devices and air conditioning costs can be reduced. Using a variety of colours, hues and opacities, the ability to customise the levels of translucency and size of the patterns guarantees that each individual project’s unique needs can be achieved.