The future of superyacht glass: Trends, types and technologies
Last updated: 26/04/2017
To say that the use of glass is becoming an increasingly prevalent and experimental aspect of yacht design would be an understatement, with new superyacht concepts continually pushing perceived boundaries, designed for the superyacht owner as well as the peers that he or she wants to impress.
Rather than using glass purely for functional purposes on board - to fabricate the essential windows, doors and windscreens – trends are moving towards daring glass superstructures, providing a new perspective of yachting, from the interior out.
With its ability to significantly alter design and enhance life on board, Yachting Pages looks into current yacht glass materials, design trends and technologies.
Yacht glass trends and developments
More than simply part of the superstructure, yacht glass is a popular material with yacht designers and owners alike for its ability to seamlessly connect interior spaces with the world outside as a portal rather than a boundary, letting the surroundings and natural light flood in.
Michael Dollar of YES Yacht Engineering Solutions said, “At present, the move in yacht design seems to be towards bigger and more dramatic glass structures, with some of the new superyachts having entire superstructures made of glass. Size and dramatic designs are the trend and this poses a challenge to glass manufacturing with regards to strength, size constraints of ovens and chemical baths and classification.”
He continued, “One of the drawbacks of these larger glass structures comes from the glass itself becoming more and more part of the structure of the yacht. These glass structures are exposed to torsional forces as the yacht flexes and twists at sea; the bed of polymer that holds them in should isolate the glass from these forces to a degree, however delamination could occur, or cracking if the glass is under strain.”
The popularity of glass, due to its flexibility and aesthetic appeal, has encouraged continued growth in the glass industry, with ongoing research and development facilitating innovation in the industry. It is these developments that have given superyacht architects the opportunity to explore almost unlimited design options, whilst still meeting the practical and regulatory requirements enforced upon them.
Frauke von der Thüsen of Tilse Industrie, a glass specialist based in Germany, said they are also seeing more trends in “large frameless glazing from floor to ceiling.”
The best glass for the job: Possibilities and limitations of yacht glass
Glass offers more freedom in yacht design, guiding the eye across the structure and integrating seamlessly with the yacht’s exterior, when desired.
Modern glass-shaping technologies, such as sag and press bending, allow for flat glass to be curved and manipulated in order to create some beautiful designs, matching the curvature of the structure of the yacht and fitting to the most awkward spaces on board, or defying it completely to create something unique.
Glass panes are strengthened and treated to fit the specifications of a yacht, with methods such as chemical toughening, thermal toughening and laminating employed.
Fire-rated and bullet and attack-resistant glass solutions are available, and have become more sought-after in the design and upgrade of prestigious superyachts.
In sailing yacht design, Philippe Briand Yacht Design recently shared with the industry that the practicality of using glass is always at the front of his mind, with the ability to walk on top of his structures unhindered of paramount importance.
To create such a structure, a compound security glass is often used, using two or more piles of chemically toughened glass that is approved by both Lloyd’s Register and ABS and accepted by all major classification societies.
He explained, “As larger and larger areas of the superstructure can be built entirely of glass, the team at Philippe Briand has been exploring the use of compound security glass with built-in multifunctional sensor technology, which allows early detection of any glass damage. Here, integrated sensors permanently measure the state of the panes and the information is passed over to the management and alarm systems.”
Michael Dollar of YES Yacht Engineering Solutions shared that yacht glass installation hasn't changed much in the last ten years. He said, “Most yacht windows are still glued into the yacht from the outside, but the biggest change we have witnessed is a shift from polyurethane adhesive sealants to MS polymers. These are apparently less reactive with the glass interlayers.
“Framed in windows are still common on motor yachts, and these usually come with an EPDM rubber U-shaped seal, which is compressed into position with an inner frame, cushioning the glass and acting as a seal. The outer edge of the glass is then sealed with a polymer. Full wrap-around glass windows form part of the common structures of today’s sailing yachts, which has presented some serious challenges with regards to torsion and stress on the glass, possibly contributing to its delamination.”
Speaking about obtaining a balance between glass design limitations and client requirements, Frauke said, “Designers and owners always have new ideas regarding size, form and appearance of material glass. But sometimes, we have to advise our customers that not all their demands can be put into practice, even though we try our hardest.”
Yacht glass types and technologies
Michael briefly explained the difference between the types and functions of different yacht glasses. He said, “Yacht glass can be produced in multiple formats; double glazing is used to insulate the yacht, where an air gap is kept between the inner layers and filled with an inert gas such as nitrogen to prevent condensation inside.
“Vinyl laminates are also available and are very effective for heat reduction and the prevention of UV damage to interiors. These are commonly used as a retrofit in older yachts that don't have UV protection already built into the interlayers, while glass tints are used for privacy and glare reduction on board. These either come with the glass actually having a colour, or a coloured foil interlayer in the glass laminate.”
Glazing on superyachts is requested both outdoors and now indoors, according to glass specialists, TIlse Industries. Frauke von der Thüsen said, “Glazing on superyachts is also requested inside. We recently equipped a yacht with a walkable wine store, made out of bent and highlighted glass.”
Improving interior comfort with dynamic ‘smart glass’
Recent innovations in glass design have helped to heat and cool the yacht’s interior without the need to ‘open’ and ‘close’ the windows; blocking UV rays, reducing unwanted glare, deterring prying eyes, and even generating electricity to aid the running of on-board systems.
Dynamic or ‘smart glass’ windows are typically made from either thermotropic glass, where colour change is triggered by the heat from the sun, or electrochromic glass, which changes from clear to opaque using an electrical current that’s regulated on board.
Philippe Briand explained, “You can now, with the switch of a button, create a private space on board by turning clear glass opaque. For use in the guest and owner areas, and as clever dividers throughout, this technology stylishly and practically creates virtual space on board.”
New glass technologies are also seeing nanotechnologies, such as photovoltaic cells, embedded into glass roof structures, creating highly transparent windows with a soft window tint. These generate electricity, helping to recoup the investment costs.
Disguising yacht glass fixtures and fittings with glass printing
For practical purposes as well as aesthetic, glass printing can be enlisted to create a ‘border’ that protects adhesives and conceals fittings.
Introduced by Glasshape during the 2015 METS trade show, VisionInk sees high definition images printed onto glass. This can then be used to hide the fixtures and fittings required to hold glass in place on board, enhancing superyacht design.
Furthermore, sand-blasting techniques can be commissioned to hide fixtures and fittings with decorative frosting, and to display logos, graphics and safety signs onto glass for decorative purposes and guest welfare.
You can search for superyacht glass suppliers and services on Yachting Pages, and if you’re the business owner of a company serving the superyacht industry, you can add your listing to Yachting Pages for free.