Making Glass Work at the Office
As workplaces embrace wellness and collaboration, innovations in glass step in to provide more daylight and transparency.
As companies across the world compete to retain and employ the most talented staff, workplace design has become increasingly important. According to research from Gensler, an employee’s physical workplace is one of the top three factors affecting performance and job satisfaction. From small businesses to corporate giants like Google and Apple—whose headquarters boast everything from gyms and games rooms to sweeping gardens and indoor slides—the race is on to create spaces workers will love.
Architecture has played a vital role in shaping the ethereal, calm, and bright look and feel of today’s most innovative offices, with designers and clients both influenced by our growing understanding of wellness. Initiatives like the international WELL Building Standard outline the importance of features like space, air, water, comfort, and light in creating healthy work environments.
To achieve this delicate balance, designers often reach for glass, a material that’s useful in its ability to connect indoor and outdoor worlds, bring us closer to nature, and allow us to access natural light, minimizing circadian disruption.
The EMD Serono Project SagaMORE building in Billerica, Massachusetts is a prime example of the benefits of glass in action. The recently-opened research and development hub was awarded the first WELL Gold Certification for New and Existing Buildings in the US, and is only the second to achieve the accreditation in the world.
Virginia-based architects INTEC Group introduced demountable glass panels, walls, and doors with dichroic film to create a flexible, STC rated and future-proofed workspace. Within this 30,000 square foot, two story extension, glass has been cleverly used to create a world of climate-controlled open spaces, huddle rooms, and technology-free meditation zones. Meanwhile, extensive building glass facades allow natural daylight to flood in, supporting interior biophilic elements such as green walls that further bolster wellness.
“We’re really proud of this building and the way it uses glass to create a sense of spaciousness and to enhance people’s productivity, energy and mood,” says Enzo Marfella, Design Principal of INTEC Group. “The ultimate environment you can create is one that supports the wellbeing of its inhabitants from a human perspective.”
“We’re particularly excited by the integration of technology with glass, using things like Augmented Reality, display screens and sophisticated films that can change or disguise what is shown on panels in the office,” he adds. “There are dynamic ways to promote collaboration, using the entire surface area of glass for multiple purposes, such as presenting and sharing information.”
Marfella argues that this advancement in glass technology will bring benefits for companies beyond merely improving the experience of their employees.
“I’m very interested in how we can use glass to externally express messaging, boost human connections, or create landmarks for wayfinding,” he explains. “For example, we’ve designed a lakeside retail venue with glass-enclosed elevators that illuminate at night, turning the building into a highly-visible beacon. It can be used to express brand identity and to engage with communities, visitors, and employees in really exciting ways.”
Glass manufacturers have an important part to play in helping architects realize their most ambitious ideas. INTEC Group works with international producer AGC on many of its projects, and Marfella says that the collaboration between them has been important.
AGC is the world’s largest glass manufacturer, offering the broadest range of products available through an extensive network of glass fabricators and window manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada. AGC is also known for its world-class customer service.
“We’ve worked closely on things like creating structural glass walls integrated with technology where you see very little hardware. We’re also always in dialog about how to advance the movability of panels to break down the barriers of enclosed spaces,” says Marfella
“These are the kind of exciting details that architects and designers love, that break the mould, and that make the future of glass so exciting.”