The Advantages of Letting the Light Shine Through in Offices

As the demands of business change, so do office building designs. Decades ago, companies virtually “corralled” their office workers into cubicles and offices with opaque walls to deter interruption and distraction.  Many have started to move away from standard cubicle designs to allow for a more open concept work environment.  Natural light and open environments have proven to be more productive environments that promote productivity and creativity in the office.  With the adaptations of glass block over through the decades, offices can create "private" offices by utilizing a contemporary glass block wall design. 

In recent years, the pendulum swung toward “open office” designs meant to encourage teamwork and communication. Unfortunately, according to a recent Harvard Study summarized on the Inc. website, the open-air concept stifled collaboration and discouraged face-to-face dialogue. Personal interaction dropped as emails and text messages rose. Management reported that overall productivity fell when the spatial boundaries were removed.

These days there is a concern that open office spaces are fraught with distractions and the potential for spreading communicable diseases.  Standard partition walls made of drywall can cause employees and office visitors feel a sense of exclusion. So, what design solution can offer privacy without making workers feel confined and isolated?  A glass block wall system can give a sense of openness to any office, retail space, or commercial interior.  With hundreds of glass block patterns and finishing options, architects and designers incorporating glass block into their project can essentially design the amount of privacy they want. 

 contemporary glass block

Providing Privacy Without Confinement

While in the past, openness and availability of natural light were not considered essential, studies show that productivity increases with the incorporation of more exterior windows and interior glass block partitions.  GBA has installed glass block wall systems into offices all across North America from New York to Austin.  Due to its light transmitting properties glass block and glass brick have become an increasingly popular product by interior designers.  Glass block patterns can distort shapes from the opposite side.  Finishing options like sandblasting are available as well on the face of the glass to add even more privacy to your glass block divider. 

The benefits of natural light in offices are well documented. According to a Psychology Today article, office workers deprived of sunlight and subjected only to fluorescent lighting experience adverse impacts on their sleep, activity, and quality of life as a result of interruptions in normal circadian rhythms. Studies conducted by Northwestern University’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience program found that workers deprived of natural light during the day experienced lower sleep quality, more sleep disturbance, and more daytime dysfunction than those who were exposed to more natural light.

Other studies have shown that productivity increases as office workers are exposed to more natural light. A September 2018 Harvard Business Review article identifies natural light and a view of the outdoors as the most important single attribute of a workplace environment, outdistancing perks like fitness centers, cafeterias, and childcare.

glass block divider

Glass Block in Offices

A notable solution is to create an environment where natural light is generously admitted and allowed to flow freely into enclosed spaces.  Commercial offices can incorporate glass block as partitions to recreate the cubicle style office with a unique and more open feeling design.  Likewise, glass block or glass brick grids can be used to create floor to ceiling walls where natural light is still desired while still needed the privacy of a traditional office.  The determination is that glass block can be ideal for enhancing productivity and employee satisfaction.

Architects recognize the healthful benefits of natural light in the workplace and are including modern glass block and brick into the exteriors and interior walls of their creations.  Unique glass brick accent walls can prove to be complementary to the overall design intent.  Because glass is so versatile, it is able to create a dramatic accent and light element to any interior.  Glass block facades in many award-winning structures around the world incorporate well-lighted workplaces with dramatic energy savings, space efficiency, and stunning beauty.

Similarly, conventional buildings are being built and retrofitted with more windows along with interior walls, partitions, walkways, and glass staircases that admit natural light.  The beauty of incorporating glass block into any design is in its ability to emit a back-lit glow at all times.  This can be elevated by including LED lighting around the framing of a glass block grid wall.   All interior spaces are flooded with natural light during the day, creating a comfortable outdoor feeling in every interior workspace.


Ideal Office Settings

WHY Magazine presents a Herman Miller listing of ten different office concept designs that provide the perfect compromise between an entirely open office concept and traditional private offices.  Each concept presented by this list explains the different work environments and the purpose they serve.  For instance, a Landing style work space is typically adjacent to another meeting space.  This is a perfect place to incorporate commercial glass block into your projects' design.  Office spaces permit individual privacy while other settings are conducive to group collaboration.  Most designs employ glass or glass block to define the specific areas while creating a sound-proof space that will not disturb other workers.

Glass Block Can Be Soundproof, Private, and Energy Efficient

Glass block is available in a range of thicknesses and degrees of transparency to muffle sound while adding the degree of privacy needed.  Each glass block is made to be unique in the sound transmission properties and light transmission levels.  Certain glass block and glass bricks have fire rated properties adding to the safety of the office environment.  The latest development in fire rated glass block allows us to achieve the European equivalent to an ASTM E119 rating.  The safety features that glass block provides makes this material perfect for cubicle walls, partitions, front desks, and individual office spaces.  Moreover, of course, workers will be more comfortable and productive.

As glass block allows natural light to enter and pass through individual offices and shared workspaces, the need for artificial light is reduced. In a large office environment, the energy savings can be significant.  An article published by Architectural Digest suggests that glass block can be "more insulating than the average window pane" and that "solar energy companies are turning to the design as an alternative to panels."  Many are starting to notice and love the unique features that glass block can bring into any environment.  

glass block architecture

Contact GBA for More Information About Glass Block for Offices

Are you looking to add glass block in your next office project? Looking to add more natural daylight in your office?

GBA Architectural Products & Services is a North American supplier of world-class glass block materials for interior and exterior applications. For over 30 years, the company has collaborated with professional builders and homeowners with many unique structural glass products that render beautiful and economical functionality in a broad range of scenarios.

GBA glass block products have been used in office designs, exterior claddings, walkways, and stairways throughout North America to admit natural light while optimizing the use of interior space.

For more information about glass block architecture for offices or other applications, contact GBA Architectural Products & Services.

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Tags: Design, Architecture, Offices, Glass Block