Glass: Contemporary solutions in heritage environments

    Modernising and restoring heritage or conservation grade buildings often poses significant challenges, especially with regard to meeting current requirements and regulations whilst at the same time maintaining the style and atmosphere of the original building. It’s no easy feat to juggle client expectations, the technical possibilities within the constraints of the building itself and also ensure the finished result ticks every box as far as conservation bodies such as English Heritage are concerned.

    Inspired use of internal and external structural glass as a building material will fulfil many contemporary needs with minimal physical or visual impact on the existing architecture , whilst at the same time maintaining maximum light flow.

    We would recommend seeking out a glass specialist with experience in heritage environments to ensure the glass is fully functional, fully compliant and designed to provide the best possible results in each individual setting.

    Ion Glass have a well-deserved reputation for working in heritage, conservation and ecclesiastical buildings and have developed a range of specialist skills and techniques to ensure their wholly bespoke glass works perfectly in many different environments.

    ‘Working in heritage buildings is always exciting as each project is so unique,’ say Ion Glass MD Peter Hazeldean, ‘It’s not just about creating a result that looks amazing, the glass has to work in the space. Working in older properties raises many different technical considerations, right through from the initial design to the expert and sensitive installation.’

    We use specialist equipment to record very precise measurements to ensure the glass fits around shaped capitals and pedestals, stone corbels and ‘out of true’ walls - and no two walls, carvings or arches are ever exactly the same. Even the two sides of a seemingly symmetrical archway will differ by several centimetres – and the glass needs to be bespoke manufactured to the correct size.

    Wherever possible we prefer a finished result that meets structural requirements without introducing a damaging or visually intrusive framework. Our service includes bespoke metalwork to enable us to fit the glass with minimal impact on the original stonework, developing individual brackets and concealed fixing systems where required.

    We also use the glass itself to create structural fins and beams and have developed a system of ingenious and robust joints manufactured in glass for wholly frameless results.’

    The scope of Ion’s work is impressive. Successful installations include structural glass linking old buildings to modern extensions; bespoke framed and frameless balustrades on staircases or enclosing mezzanine floors and stylish glass doors and draught lobbies to provide welcoming and secure entrances. They also regularly install acoustic glass screens, creating private yet fully visible meeting rooms or simply to make more effective use of space and heat-retention in older, draughty buildings.

    Ion Glass provided extensive structural glass for the RIBA award-winning restoration project at St Mary’s at the Quay in Ipswich, converting a mediaeval church to provide a health and wellness centre in the heart of the city.

    Extensive use of structural glass made it possible to extend upwards into the lofty ceiling space, creating a mezzanine floor with glass enclosed meeting rooms overlooking the nave. Acoustic safety glass set into the arched windows mitigates the intrusion of external traffic noise, allowing quiet spaces within the newly created rooms and a structural glass entrance lobby minimises heat loss whilst still providing a visual welcome to visitors when they enter the building.

    ‘St Mary’s at the Quay was an exciting project to work on,’ added Peter, ‘especially as it engaged so many of our skills and techniques for structural glass within a single heritage building.’

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