• Africa Needs Glass Architecture; Or Does It?

Do glass buildings perform in the tropics? In Africa? If no what are the alternatives, if yes how should they be executed? These are the fundamental questions that should be the guidelines to any designer and /or developer who embarks into developing the glass high-rise buildings that come up daily in this continent.

Generally speaking from an environmental point of view, glass building will perform better in the temperate regions that the same would have done in the tropics.

However modern movement has seen the replication of the glass box architecture in almost every part of the world from the far north to the far south and east to west. Mostly these buildings are not regionalised or site specific and are supposedly perceived to fit anywhere. As much as these buildings may perform better in other regions and have ease off the shelf details not all of them do the same in Africa, being mostly in the tropics. Most designers may argue that glass buildings reflect the architecture of our time or the clients feel at par with the day architecture but improper execution of these buildings can lead to high running costs in the long run and alarming carbon footprints.

Some glass buildings however a corporate statements and reflected how universal and multinational the corporates are. These type of projects call for designers to establish best practise, through research on how well to designer glass buildings in the continent and tropics in general.

The quick fix of double glazing, solar glass and sun shading are used as excuse and some are just extra cost on the client budget and  do not real deliver their promised results.

However this said against glass buildings in Africa, there are great glass buildings in Africa that have struck the proper balance of glass and other materials and their designs are timeless.

These buildings are not only at per with buildings in the world but are exemplary in how high-rise glass buildings can be executed in the continent. Mike Pearce in Zimbabwe has done great building, like the East Gate Building that is naturally ventilated and show the supremacy of  little to no glass buildings in the tropics.

This is not to say though that glass buildings are complete fail in the tropics but how they are done is more significant than them being glazed. Ideally all glazed surface s should be protected and away from the unforgiving east and mostly western sun of the tropics.

 

Irrespective of the choice of material designer in Africa and the tropics should aim to achieve low carbon footprints buildings, ideally naturally lit and ventilated and still design buildings that reflect architecture of the day and satisfy clients brief. With glass in the tropics this task is even more complicated and should be looked in depth if quality of spaces created is valued.

 

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