In order to design and execute in an innovative way, it is important to define what innovation really is. It is one thing to be different but quite another to be different and innovative. One must understand a material’s true product performance, its nuances, how to play to its strengths, minimise its weaknesses and how to incorporate a product into a system in the right way.
With seven decades of transforming city skylines with successful silicone durability in a range of façade applications, we at Dow continuously explore opportunities to bring innovation and adapt and leverage our expanding portfolio of sealant technologies to help enable and support designs for future living. In this article, we are delighted to share insights into some of our latest material technologies for potential applications of the future.
Cover image: DorinSTEFAN architect
The use of glass outside
Due to its virtually unlimited range of design options and its aesthetic benefits, glass has become more widely used to produce contemporary designs for external building elements. Glass would probably have been a material of choice for the famous Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncusi (1876-1957). This artist (literally) changed the definition of sculpture and is called the patriarch of modern sculpture. The interaction of his work and the space around it was very important and he enjoyed using shiny surfaces to reflect the surroundings on his work and bounce off light. In a permanent search to find the essence of things, he continuously simplified shapes. As a sign of gratitude and admiration for this great sculptor, native from a nearby village, the Craiova Art Museum dedicated an underground wing to his work which is complemented on the surface by a glass pavilion, “Sign and Signal”. This work is a balance between architecture and sculptural “optical art” aiming to create a visual illusion between some of the shapes most often found in Brâncuși’s work: the cube, the ovoid and the fusiform volume.
The concept of the architect, Stefan Dorin, was to bring to life a project which Brâncuși did not have the opportunity to realize: The Temple of Love and Peace, intended for the Maharajah of Indore. Brâncusi conceived the Temple as an outdoor structure without doors or windows, which would need to be entered through an underground passage. Three of his famous “Măiastra” bird sculptures would have been displayed on a small square pool inside the apple-shaped interior. The “glass pavilion” inside the Art Museum was born from the legend of this unrealized project and is composed of 12-meter-high and 3 meter wide ethereal glass walls, creating the external prismatic square volume. The interior, made of horizontal glass slats, defines an ovoid shape in which the silhouette of the “Măiastra” sculpture can be read. From the underground hall, a glass elevator climbs to the middle of the “glass pavilion” allowing a single person the opportunity, during a few seconds of ascent, to become immersed in Brâncuși’s world and experience his legacy: elevation, peace and enlightment of spirit.
These pure glass walls were mounted securely and invisibly in the frame system designs using DOWSIL™ 375 Construction & Glass Embedding, a flowable and fast curing polyurethane technology, which has high strength and exceptional rigidity to minimize panel deflection and enhance durability. This project constitutes one of the highest embedded glass projects as of today. Balconies are for sure a more modest, but nevertheless aesthetically pleasing alternative application example of this material. Balconies are powerful elements, which bring individuality, elegance and even add a hint of luxury, allowing natural and artificial light to flow freely and permit unobstructed views from both inside and outside buildings.
Maximising the glazed area of a balcony to realise these benefits can be achieved with frameless glass balustrades. Designs incorporating flat, curved monolithic or laminated glass are all possible with DOWSIL™ 375 Construction & Glass Embedding – we are pleased to share that this material has passed recently pendulum tests for safety of glass barriers according to DIN 18008-4.
Maximising transparency from inside
Investing in a better indoor environment has been shown to improve health, well-being and productivity and potentially lead to better returns for businesses. With this in mind, increasing the passage of daylight inside a building is now looking possible following the development of DOWSIL™ Crystal Clear Spacer; a new fully cured, durable and soft crystal clear silicone spacer. This exciting option can be applied to interior panels, glazed entrance doors and even commercial refrigerator doors, where product presentation and visibility in a retail environment is highly desirable.
With great instant adhesion to glass, it is easy to install and is flexible thus helping to reduce the incidence of glass breakage, as well as helping to enable creative designs including curved glasses. Benefiting from the inherent durability of silicone and its high clarity, this breakthrough technology offers the potential to be expanded into a variety of other glass designs in the future. Keeping in mind the specificities of this technology, allowing on demand bonding, new bonding concepts which could not be assembled using a wet applied sealants can be considered.
Glass encapsulation and lamination
Another rising star takes the form of silicone for encapsulating glass. Different types of decorative substrates and inserts, thin or thick, porous or not, such as metal meshes or timber cuts, can be embedded using a self-levelling, two-component silicone technology, DOWSIL™ 9955 Glass Encapsulation and Lamination. The encapsulation process occurs at room temperature which helps to ensure temperature sensitive inserts will not be damaged. The whole process is quick and has limited energy consumption compared to conventional lamination interlayers, making it attractive in terms of sustainability.
This crystal clear silicone has a highly purified composition for excellent light transmittance properties with more than 90% light transmission at 5mm thickness over the wavelength range of 450 to 760nm. Haze is also limited to 4-6% depending on the wavelength. Thanks to this high clarity, encapsulation of light in the laminate can also be considered. Being a silicone, it is resistant to weathering without yellowing upon heat and UV exposure, helping to ensure the needed durability to the bonded laminate according to EN12543. This silicone does not delaminate or bubble and is fully compatible with the DOWSIL™ range of silicone products, which avoids any issues when installing or sealing the bonded laminate.
Redefining the passage of light
Recent innovative building designs suggest that the shape of a building can be used to orientate light to where it is most needed. One such example suggests that reducing the footprint at the base of a high-rise building and creating curves in the wider, upper levels of a tower can minimize the amount of shade that is cast and maximise the amount of natural light on the ground. This would undoubtedly enhance public spaces, produce greener gardens and help enable plants to receive the much-needed illumination to grow.
At this time, Dow’s SILASTIC™ MS-2002 is efficiently used in the lighting industry to help enable reflectors. But as a highly reflective material, it could be used to coat all kinds of surfaces and materials. In fact, its reflectance was measured to be higher than 98%. Thanks to the material’s high hardness, the potential for dirt pick-up will typically be limited and being a silicone, it also comes with all the durability, making it possible for use in outdoor environments. Besides coating outside, it could also be applied on architectural light shelves to bring light deeper into buildings. Not only do light shelves allow light to penetrate through the building, they can also be designed to shade near the windows, due to the overhang of the shelf, and help reduce window glare.
Extensive collaboration and expertise are what makes it possible to achieve innovative design projects. As a partner to design and glass industry professionals around the world, we actively work together to help offer smart options that address the many complexities of high performing building facades. Dow’s Façade Engineering & Architectural Design Team (FEAT Team) is comprised of members from all four corners of the globe who bring a wealth of design experience in the use of sealant technologies which can help offer targeted system options aligned to new industry trends and developments. Their experience includes:
- Finite element analysis for behavioural modelling
- Experimental tests for cold bent durability
- Fire tests in relation to joint designs and conditions
- Blast and impact containment
- Thermal model reviews
- Understanding the bespoke properties of materials
The FEAT team welcomes opportunities to work with industry professionals to address product innovation, project or system design options.
Dow has recently invested in a new inspirationstudio which is located in Belgium, with an intent to develop a new customercentric co-creation possibility. This space showcases Dow’s innovation capabilities and since ideas seldom materialise on their own, it helps enable discussions with industry associates to create new solutions and solve challenges. It regularly hosts the High Performance Building Technical Training Academy, a comprehensive learning centre dedicated to sealant technologies, performance and installation and supports high class training for members of Dow’s Quality Bond™ program for structural silicone bonding.
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Winter 2020 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Author: Markus Plettau, Global Façade Segment Leader – Dow High Performance Building
Markus Plettau is responsible for boosting the global growth and profile of the façade segment with innovation from the Dow portfolio. Based in Wiesbaden, Germany, he is tasked to provide product and system solutions for building envelopes, enabling energy-efficient, sustainable, safe, and durable façade designs with a strong focus on new technologies and innovations.