Since the 1970s, out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks have made their mark on the UK’s retail landscape. Today, these centres remain popular with shoppers and investors alike, with research from property consultancy, CBRE, published late last year indicating that capital values for out-of-town centres had increased by six per cent in the third quarter of 2015, marking the second steepest rise since 2000.
As brands target these locations to increase their presence and attract shoppers, there’s a growing opportunity for the glass and glazing industry to capitalise on such developments, says Phil Savage, commercial sales manager at Pilkington United Kingdom Limited.
One of the primary aims of architecture in retail is to present an inviting shop-front that will draw customers in with the promise of an open, bright and friendly marketplace, as well as an unimpeded view of the products on offer.
For that reason, glass is increasingly being favoured by designers as it can be used to create visually striking structures, while also offering high-levels of light and transparency.
The popularity of low-iron glass
In recent years the use of low-iron glass such as Pilkington Optiwhite™ has become increasingly prevalent in retail developments.
This type of glass, which is made from carefully selected raw materials with a naturally low-iron content, is practically colourless, and ensures visual clarity of the products on display and as its light transmission is also higher than clear float glass, it is often specified in applications where transparency is key, explaining its growing use in retail developments.
However, it’s important to remember that specifying glass not only results in attractive façades and a clear line of sight for the shopper, but it offers other benefits that are increasingly desired by retail developments and facilities managers.
Energy efficiency in the retail sector
With energy costs and emissions targets on the rise, thermal performance has become an important concern for building designers and retail developers. Retail is the second largest consumer of energy in the UK, costing the sector £3.3 billion in 2013.
Research from The Carbon Trust has revealed that that a 20 per cent reduction in energy costs for retailers equals a five per cent increase in sales. Coupled with this, consumers today have an expectation that the brands they engage with act in an environmentally responsible way, while investors say that the more energy-efficient a shopping centre is, the more valuable an asset it will be in the long-term. This means retail centres have much to gain from energy efficient products and practices.
Advances in coating technology mean glass can increase a building’s energy-efficiency, helping to control its temperature or reduce glare. If the façade is south-facing, for example, solar control glass can help to prevent overheating inside a building, and reduce the expense of running air-conditioning units. Modern technology also means glass manufacturers can now produce solar control glazing with very high levels of transparency, enabling developers achieve high levels of light and clarity, without compromising on performance.
In colder climates, where keeping as much heat inside a building as possible is key, structural glazing systems can employ the latest low-emissivity technology to achieve near-optimal thermal efficiency. The same system can also be double- or triple-glazed for even better thermal performance.
Not only does this maximise internal comfort levels but it also helps to reduce the cost of energy bills, an attractive advantage for retail property owners or facilities managers looking to keep overheads down and profit margins high.
Although some could be concerned that increased use of glass in retail developments could make shops more vulnerable to theft or attack, developers are countering these concerns by specifying laminated glass.
Laminated glass consists of two or more panes of glass sandwiching one or more interlayers, most commonly PVB (polyvinyl butyral). This means that the performance of laminated products, such as Pilkington Optilam™, can be varied by changing the number and thickness of each of the glass panes and the PVB interlayers to give the specifier a wide choice of products depending on application.
Although no stronger than annealed glass of a similar thickness, the PVB interlayers also mean that when laminated glass breaks the glass fragments tend to stick to the PVB, reducing exposure to glass fragments that could injure shoppers.
Indeed many client and designers are going further and incorporating toughened glass as part of the laminating construction and utilising new interlayer technology to improve strength and overall performance of the glass wall.
As a business, we have a number of retail developments in our pipeline and will support developers in specifying the latest in glazing technology so they can create light, spacious and welcoming environments consumers.
Case study – Bishop Centre, Taplow
The designers of the renovated Bishop Centre shopping park in Taplow, near Maidenhead in Buckinghamshire, wanted its two-storey units to be fronted by a 6m-tall wall of glass that would allow natural light to pour into the stores, and let customers see the shop floor from outside.
Creating the 10 retail units – including a large Tesco supermarket as an anchor store – 200 metres of storefront façade was required, along with an all-glass entrance cube for the supermarket – a total of 1,300 sq m of glass.
With exterior glazing making up such a large proportion of the building’s exterior, its thermal performance was paramount, both in terms of its ability to prevent heat loss in cold weather and avoid overheating on sunny days.
To meet these challenges, the Pilkington Planar™ structural glazing system was specified, featuring double-glazed units that included an advanced solar control coating.
A different specification of glass was used for the Tesco storefront than for the other units at the park, as the supermarket wished to prioritise solar control over transparency to a greater degree in order to reduce the need for air conditioning in the large space.
The majority of the unit fronts feature Pilkington Planar™ Sun 62/29, which allows 62 per cent of visible light to pass through it and 29 per cent of the sun’s energy. Tesco opted for Pilkington Planar™ Sun 30/17, which lets less energy from the sun enter the building, but also reduces the amount of visible light that passes through the glass.
Elegant yet strong
There were other structural challenges for the glazing system as well. It needed to support the weight of the double-glazed units while also meeting Building Regulations for glazing at ground level, which requires it to be toughened and to break safely in the event of a large impact.
Full-height perpendicular glass fins were used to give the façade sufficient rigidity to span between the anchor points at top and bottom without compromising on the appearance by introducing non-transparent frames. The height of the system required these fins to be installed in two pieces, bolted together with stainless steel splice plates.
The entry cube is an all-glass structure, with toughened walls and cantilevered fins supporting overhead toughened and laminated glass beams which, in turn, support the toughened glass ceiling. The result is a bright and inviting entryway that allows two sets of doors to help reduce heat loss from inside the building without taking up internal floor-space.
The result is a cutting-edge shop front that gives the 10 separate retail units the feeling of individuality within unified whole.