STUDY OUT! Glazing is essential based on user experiences and scientific research results

When thinking about whether it is well-grounded to provide the balcony with a glazing system, it is good start from such global transient phenomena as megatrends. These include the migration from rural areas to cities and the urbanisation, the climate change and actions that people have taken to mitigate it, as well as the internal need of people to protect themselves from alternating weather conditions, and, thus, improve their own living environment. These all impact on our own way of living and our homes.

One of the megatrends – urbanisation – has created the need to live closer and closer one another in cities. In practice, this has given impetus to the development of the multi-storey building construction. It has also brought residents in a closer contact with such drawbacks as traffic, noise and various air pollutants. Urbanisation has not, however, changed the need of people to enjoy their stay outside all by themselves. This is why balconies and terraces have been, and will be of vital importance to residents every day.

Many recognised architects have, in public, spoken up for the need of providing flats with a balcony or a terrace. To mention but a few, Alvar Aalto emphasised, as early as in the 1940s, in a magazine for architects how important balconies are for the living comfort of residents and pointed out that flat-specific yards should be large enough to fulfil the requirements that have been set for staying outside when desired. Likewise, Architect Reima Pietilä suggested for the first time in the 1970s that it would be most convenient to provide balconies with glazing solutions, as this would make it easier to equip balconies with appropriate furniture, and, thus, improve their comfortableness in use. After that, the popularity of glazing solutions started to increase, but not until decades had gone by after the first comments of the architects. The so-called sliding glass panes were widely favoured at first, but the retractable, frameless balcony glazing systems increased their popularity later on. After their launch, they swiftly became the most popular glazing products.

Balcony and terrace glazing solutions are an integral part of balcony and terrace fittings

Nowadays, the balcony and terrace glazing solutions are an integral part of balcony and terrace fittings. Over the past few years, architects, constructors and even residents have all emphasised the importance of balcony and terrace glazing solutions. The glazing has been found necessary, not only for architectural and structural reasons, but also as a good way of improving living comfort and reducing noise levels. Additional information about energy savings has been available, as well. The latest trend is to use sun shades that have started to increase their popularity. All the trends indicate that it is necessary to provide multi-storey buildings and detached houses with balcony and terrace installations and how much the home owners are in need of proper glazing installations for their balconies and terraces.

The popularity of frameless balcony glazing solutions has also been noted by researchers. They have started to look for scientific arguments to justify the benefits that have already been identified in practice. The studies that relate to the use of glazed balconies were the first research subjects. According to the studies, the use of balconies had increased and balconies were increasingly often used just like interior spaces after they had been provided with glazing systems. The balcony glazing systems were subsequently proven to reduce the cleaning need inside the balcony. Likewise, the furniture remained in a better condition when protected from bad weather. Later on, architects became interested in the modern aesthetics of frameless glass facades and property owners were keen on lengthening the serviceable life of balcony structures with many years, because structures could be protected from bad weather, thanks to the glazing. Users have also clearly benefitted from the glazing: the harmful effect of environmental noise has drastically reduced after the glazing installation, the running costs of flats have decreased due to energy savings, the residents have been able to use their balconies for several months longer than before and the sun shades have protected them from the sunlight and provided privacy. My doctoral dissertation and the recently published handbook, RIL 272-2019, with the heading in Finnish: Parveke- ja terassilasitus rakennusosana (balcony and terrace glazing as a structural element), will show correct numerical values and scientific facts that relate to the matter.

According to both user experiences and scientific research results, it is necessary to provide balconies and terraces with glazing systems. There are many different grounds that support balcony glazing installations and all users may find such grounds from among them that suit their needs. The task of the professionals for the construction sector is to find out the preferences of home buyers and give such reasons for a purchase that emphasise the facts that residents themselves have found important. My firm belief is that the frameless balcony glazing system is one of the central reasons why a flat with a glazed balcony is preferred and chosen, instead of a flat with no balcony glazing at all.

Lumon Kimmo Hilliaho
Kimmo Hilliaho
Doctor of Science in Technology, Lumon Oy
I have been researching and investigating glazed balconies since 2009. During this time, a master's thesis on "Energy saving effect of balcony glazing" and a doctoral dissertation "Energy Saving Potential and Interior Temperatures of Glazed Spaces: Evaluation through Measurements and Simulations" has been completed.