Putting the SMART Back into Roof Glass

Jason McCabe-Clayton Glass-web

30 Apr Putting the SMART Back into Roof Glass

The conservatory roof glass market is just 12 years old, yet it has moved on immeasurably from a technical standpoint as Jason McCabe, commercial director of Clayton Glass and founders of the SMARTGLASS® brand explains.

The specialist conservatory roof glass market was catapulted in to the limelight in 2003 at a time when polycarbonate had a near 85% share of what was a 300,000 unit per annum conservatory market. The fact was everyone wanted glass in their conservatory roofs, yet up to this time there was a distinct lack of solar control and other criteria in the existing product offerings from insulated glass unit manufacturers. At that stage the large polycarbonate producers prevailed.

Fast forwarding to 2015, glass now equates to around 70% of the roof sector and there are now a number of products in the marketplace, some performing better than others, as you would expect. The latest technologies and developments from the major European flat glass manufacturers are being increasingly adopted and have helped form technically better products as our own SMARTGLASS® products show.

We are fortunate as one of the UK’s largest independent roof glass manufacturers in that we can harness the best technologies from several different glass manufacturers and combine them into a cutting edge range of argon-filled insulated glass units. Technologies change, but it’s up to forward-thinking companies to adopt these technologies with a commercially minded offering, as our network of customers can bear testament.

Warm Edge Technology has transformed the window market on the back of the Window Energy Ratings and it’s just as relevant in the roof glass sector, having formed part of our product offering since the outset and it works equally as well in the near horizontal plane as it does in the vertical.

The premise is simple, to reduce the amount of heat lost through the edge of a window through the use of modern materials. Traditionally aluminium was used as a spacer bar material, but it is highly conductive, has a high thermal energy loss and I would suggest has no part to play in any glazed area within a conservatory, or even a garden room.

U-values have also come down in recent years from the once industry standard of 1.4w/m2K to 1.2 and enhanced 1.0 levels, the latter as can be seen in our SMARTGLASS® Plus+ and SMARTGLASS® Ultimate products. Solar factors have also hugely improved, this being a measure of the glass unit’s ability to reflect or absorb the solar heat (gain) incident on it. A word of caution however, there’s no point of having an incredible solar factor if it totally compromises light transmission. It’s all about the overall package of heat and light and we believe that under normal use anything less than around 20% for light transmission goes against everything a conservatory stands for, i.e. light and space.

One other key feature of modern conservatory roof glass is easy or self cleaning properties and there’s much confusion in the trade, let alone in the consumer sector. The only true self-cleaning technologies are those specifically designed for purpose and permanently engineered into the external glass pane by either magnetron coating or chemical vapour deposition at the float plant. Cheaper alternatives, such as the post-production spray applications that we have seen in the past do not offer a true self clean solution and due to the way they are applied such ‘easy clean’ solutions can often require reworking on site.

There is choice now in the conservatory roof glass sector in terms of product performance and we’ve been quick to adopt a good, better and best product strategy. For South facing conservatories we’d suggest our SMARTGLASS® Plus+ and SMARTGLASS® Ultimate products, where for a more sheltered location our standard offering would suffice.

The fact is that specialist conservatory roof glass now dominates the market, but that doesn’t mean to say we can stand still. There are now new glass technologies emerging from all 4 corners of the globe that will help make tomorrow’s conservatories and glazed extensions even smarter and that’s our challenge.