Interview with Agustí Bulbena, Architect specializing in glass

Glass is an essential component of building cladding. In fact, its presence in the external envelope of a building, its technological evolution and its performance give new meaning to how light contributes to the interior design of buildings and to users’ comfort. VETECO is aware of the role that plate glass plays in the world of architecture and construction today, so there will also be space for this sector within the VETECO event in VETECO GLASS.
To discuss the importance of glass and its evolution, we spoke with Agustí Bulbena, architect and architectural glass consultant, who also gave his opinion on VETECO GLASS.

How has the use of plate glass in building construction evolved in recent decades and what has most influenced its development?

Glass has evolved hand in hand with technology in general, meaning that the modern machinery required to manufacture and transform it has improved the quality and performance of the finished product.
In any case, the most decisive evolution in recent decades is the continuous development of laminated glass. The development of nanotechnology has made this possible and it continues to enable the manufacture of increasingly high-performance (selective) layers and very high degrees of transparency.

What challenges and problems does glass face in our market? What do you see as the main shortcomings and opportunities?

Glass has always been on the rise, as its share in the building sector has been continually growing; that is, the ratio of square metres of glass to the built area is always increasing.
There are several reasons for this: buildings have more and larger openings and more glass is being installed inside buildings (doors, partitions, etc.); there are more and more structural and/or decorative glass components.
A quintessential example of this wider application of glass in the world of construction is when we use it to manufacture structural elements: floors, skylights, beams, pillars, etc. This is the application that has created the most challenges.
In view of the growing presence of glass, we must avoid the risk of trivialising it; that is, misusing it, as this would only discredit its value as a material.

What has glass contributed to modern architecture, especially considering the forthcoming regulatory framework for energy efficiency in buildings?

Glass has contributed directly to opening up many and improved possibilities for architectural design. Improved performance has made it possible to create much more transparent, yet highly efficient building envelopes, while the possibility of using glass as a structural element has enabled architects and engineers alike to design glass structures that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
When the right kind of glass is used, it meets the requirements of current regulations perfectly.

The design of new architectural challenges mean large glass formats are becoming more and more common. Does the shape of the glass affect its performance?

Since the appearance of float glass in the middle of the last century, glass has been sold in 6000 x 3210-mm sheets, which is somewhat large for the transformation processes, since very few industrialists in Spain have the machinery to transform such large panes.
Furthermore, in Spain we still find very few glazed claddings with the largest available transformed panes (tempered, laminated, insulating glass…). It is true that large panes are being used more and more because, as we have said before, the openings in buildings are becoming larger. Therefore, residential and architectural glass still have a long way to go.

Nevertheless, it is true that new trends, initially driven by the design of the glass claddings on the different Apple headquarter buildings, have promoted the use of very large 12-m or 14-m glass panes, and these can only be transformed on very special production lines. In short, using them is an option, but they will be used in very specific projects, since the cost is high, and the logistics are much more complicated.

Where are the trends in glass panes in the construction sector?

Leaving aside the multinational glass manufacturers, there will be a group of technologically advanced processing companies with production capacities that will be able to rise to the challenge of major national and international projects.
Moreover, the sector is very large and needs other groups of companies with more specialized products that cover the different areas of our country.

Building envelope glass is produced by the processing companies and fitted by the cladders or workshops.

The glazier will handle the glass inside the building: decoration, mirrors, partitions…
Glass will continue to evolve, especially laminated glass. I am sure that manufacturers will continue to surprise us with glass that offers new properties.

This year, Veteco is dedicating part of its exhibition offer to the world of glass. Why is it important to highlight the sector’s attendance at VETECO GLASS and what do you expect to find at the event?

According to plans, we can expect that VETECO will again host the sector’s main industrial players –in greater numbers than in previous years– faithfully reflecting the vigorous health of the current construction market in general and the cladding market in particular.

VETECO is really our fair; it is undeniably the authentic trade fair for the cladding industry in Spain Glass is one of the main components used for enclosures, and as a material it has its own identity, so, it makes a lot of sense to highlight its presence at the fair through VETECO GLASS.

VETECO should be congratulated on this idea, because I believe that bringing together the different glass manufacturers in the same venue adds value and dignifies the glass subsector even more. I am sure it will benefit both exhibitors and visitors.