Flexible Transparency - a Study on Adaptive Thin Glass Façade Panels
Chemically strengthened thin glass (t < 2 mm) is a material that is stronger and due to its small thickness, more flexible than conventional window glass. As such, thin glass offers the possibility for lightweight and flexible glass façades that could change shape depending on external conditions. This paper explores this concept and presents an MSc study on the use of this material in adaptive façade panels. The behavior of thin glass in this context depends on different factors. The glass thickness and strength define its bending limits, while the desired geometry and movement affect its overall stiffness and visual outcome. In order to integrate these factors, different configurations of panels were analyzed in numerical models. These analyses showed the importance of understanding the desired movement and geometry in order to correctly define the supports and degrees of freedom of the panel, avoiding stress concentration (particularly on the edges) and allowing for an unobstructed movement of the panel. The development of these analyses resulted in the conception of a design example of an adaptive façade panel, taking into consideration the design requirements developed in the research. Finally, as a proof of concept, a mock-up was built simulating the behavior of the design example developed in this research. Although there is still the need for research to be developed so that thin glass can become a building material, this research showed that this is possible and that interesting results, regarding visual effect, ventilation and dead load reduction (in larger scale, an environmental impact reduction is also possible) can be achieved. Besides that, using thin glass in adaptive panels challenges the concept of glass as a static material, opening new possibilities for its use.