Incorporating Glass Block + Structural Glass Outdoors

As summertime quickly approaches, home and building owners are beginning to tackle the outdoor projects that they have been planning throughout the colder winter months.  Finding the right outdoor design to elevate your living space can be a difficult task, especially when restrained by limited space.  There is no need to be hesitant about closing off natural light sources though when incorporating glass into your outdoor design.  Whether it's a small balcony or a large backyard, enhanced outdoor spaces encourage time spent outdoors can provide a number of personal and health benefits for occupants.

Completing a spring or summer project - such as planting a garden or updating a patio - can infuse personality into any deck, sun room, or outdoor space. With a wide selection of unique and intriguing building materials available to architects and designers, the traditional porch or patio can be elevated into a livable and inviting area.  Utilizing structural glass or glass block into any outdoor design can give an elevated look at night as well.  By running lighting behind any glass block column light or structural glass skylight, the glass will seem to glow all night long as you relax and unwind outside. 

Using Glass Products Outdoors

Sustainable, durable, and beautiful, glass products are ideal to use in any outdoor project that can create a dramatic contrasting effect when combined with natural-looking materials like stone or concrete. Glass block and structural glass have gained considerable interest from designers and architects in recent years. It is used as an aesthetically pleasing cladding to create award-winning buildings around the world. Architects and interior designers have found that glass block and structural glass offer many practical and functional advantages that other building materials do not. Light admission and diffusion, transparency, beauty, strength, durability, and sustainability are principal motivators for using modern glass block for exterior structures and spaces.

Through the years, we have installed many exterior structural glass and glass block projects in both private residences and public buildings.  With our unmatched knowledge and resources, GBA is the perfect design resource for any architect, designer, or home owner.  Our innovative structural glass flooring and vault light applications are able to bring natural light inside any area while elevating the exterior.  Since we have worked to design, manufacture, and install thousands of structural glass flooring in outdoor applications, we've included some beautiful and unique ways to incorporate these glass projects into your outdoor space.

1. Walkable Deck Skylights

Durable and beautiful GBA structural glass skylights can be installed into a deck or patio area to create an elegant and unique surface.  Structural glass skylights can transmit light to areas below, making them ideal for multi-level decks.  These panels are capable of handling weight and impact just as well as any other building material, making them safe to walk on.  Multiple frit patterns are available to increase slip resistance on the top surface of the glass.  Traction control frits can also provide an added layer of privacy to any glass skylight.  They are also able to be fully customized to any degree of transparency or to any pattern available.


walkable glass with steel Private Residence - New York, NY



ibp-glasswalk Kinzua Bridge State Park - McKean County, PA



steel and glass panel for glass block patio Private Residence


2. Glass Block Grid Canopies & Awnings

IBP Glass Block Grids can be used as part of a canopy or awning structure, allowing architects and designers to provide protection against the elements while maximizing daylight.  These structures are both functional and dynamic: they illuminate pedestrian spaces below while protecting them from the elements.  A variety of available glass block patterns and grid colors provides maximum design flexibility.


glass canopy over decking Nassau County 8th Precinct - Levittown, NY



outdoor-glass-block-wall Bank of America


3. Glass Block Patio Ideas

Glass block pillars are aesthetically pleasing structures that illuminate outdoor areas.  The customization options are virtually endless with a wide array of both brick and glass block options available.  One way to use glass block in a patio pillar application is to add a single row of glass block with the incorporation of lights behind it.  This helps to not only light walkways after dusk, but also to create an elevated design.  Another idea would be to design an entire pillar created with glass block.  This design can be utilized as pillars for entryways or along walkways, or can be engineered to be used as a table.  GBA is ready to help design any glass block patio dream into reality.  We've installed glass block pillars in commercial buildings and residences across the country, including the Canton, GA Culver's location pictured below.


glass block patio Glass Block Lighted Pillar



glass block column light Culver's - Canton, GA


4. Photovoltaic Pavers

Photovoltaic pavers transform traditional glass block into an environmentally-friendly way to light exterior applications. This low-cost alternative to electrical ground lighting contains a powerful internal lithium battery and high-luminosity LED diodes. This battery powers the LED lights at night by transforming the solar energy generated during the day. Photovoltaic pavers are ideal for walkways, sidewalks, bridges, balconies, patios, decks, gardens, or exterior walls and panels.


glass paver Photovoltaic Pavers



outdoor glass buildings Installed Photovoltaic Pavers


5. Precast Concrete Panels

Glass pavers set into precast concrete panels allow the transmission of natural light in heavy traffic areas and are a beautiful way to incorporate glass into an exterior project. These systems are strong and durable, making them ideal for a variety of sidewalk or bridge applications.  Glass paver and precast concrete panels come in a variety of standard colors, but can also be custom colored to match any existing design.  Glass pavers are also available in square and round shapes, as well as hundreds of colors and patterns.  These precast panels are a modernization of the historic cast iron sidewalk vault lights.  The glass pavers set into the precast concrete act as lightwells, allowing light to pour into the spaces below.  One common application for this structural glass flooring is in transit stations.    

outdoor glass buildings Longwood Gardens - Kennett Square, PA


6. Vault Lights

Vault lights are historic architectural features in many major metropolitan streetscapes.  These glass insertions are set into the sidewalk to provide natural light to the basement spaces below.  Sidewalk vault lights have made a resurgence in modern design as there are hundreds more design options available by GBA.  We have worked with the New York Historic Conservation society to restore historic vault light pavers in sidewalks all across New York City and throughout North America.  Composite cast iron vault light panels are engineered for high-traffic walking areas and can be designed for high load applications.  


sidewalk vault light 10 Hubert - New York, NY



vault lights Private Residence - New York, NY


Contact GBA Architectural Products + Services

Are you looking to incorporate glass block or structural glass into your next outdoor project?

GBA Architectural Products & Services is a North American supplier of world-class glass block materials for interior and exterior applications. For more than 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.

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

Visit the GBA website or give us a call:

Tags: Glass Block, Structural Glass