Studies and testimonials show the benefits of having natural light in buildings, including lower levels of stress, greater productivity and enhanced wellbeing of building occupants.
Belgian architectural firm Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS is renowned for the architecture and structural engineering of major private and public sector projects (www.samynandpartners.com). For example, it built the head offices of AGC Glass Europe in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium and the new Council of Europe building in Brussels.
“The firm’s ongoing challenge is to match the client’s aspirations with the spirit of the place (genius loci),” says Philippe Samyn, civil engineer, architect, founder and design partner at the firm. He hopes to make this a permanent feature and couches his objective in more down-to-earth terms: “To build the most beautiful, energy-efficient and cost-effective building.” Boldness and lightness of forms, economy of materials, structural reliability, a sense of timelessness and an environmental awareness are all characteristics that the press and the industry literature have recognised in his work.
Located right in the heart of Brussels’ European district, the fully renovated Residence Palace serves as the headquarters of the European Council. The complex stands out for its innovative structure featuring a double skin facade made of a patchwork of 3,750 restored wooden window frames collected from each of the member states and an internal atrium including a lantern-shaped construction. AGC Glass Europe delivered all the necessary glass (30,000 m²) for the double skin facade, the lantern, the translation booths and the lifts. The specifications were extremely complex since all the glass needed to have the same tint despite the different thicknesses required. Clearvision was selected as the float glass due to its excellent light transmission and colour rendering.
In one of his books, Philippe Samyn writes extensively about light and glass: “Transparency and reflection lie at the core of my work, and I rely on them constantly,” he said. And on this point, glass is a faithful ally to our cause. He reaffirmed the obvious fact that “glass is the only material that can fully guarantee transparency”. Indeed, he was resolute that only glass that is as crystal-clear as possible could achieve “the same colour perception as if it were not there”. Unless the glazing itself serves an artistic function, of course. In this respect, he is glad progress has been made and that this era is finally moving away from reflective glass.
Philippe Samyn favours the application of a neutral coating for solar control and thermal insulation to Clearvision, AGC’s extra-clear glass. “For energy-efficiency reasons related to solar control, it is very tempting to reduce the surface area of windows or the overall light transmission,” he says. “This goes hand in hand with the rising use of artificial lighting. However, the concessions made for optimal energy use often lead to large glazed window frames.” Combining a neutral coating with Clearvision glass delivers unique aesthetics and enhanced comfort for building occupants.