Stairway to Clarity – Switchable Glass Stairs

As the UK’s leading manufacturer of Switchable Smart Glass, we are continuously seeing new and exciting applications of our technology. Switchable Smart Glass is glass that changes from frosted to clear on command via an activation method of the user’s choice, ranging from remote control right through to voice command. Helping to change the face of the British property and construction industry, our range of products offer innovative approaches to privacy that just can’t be matched with other solutions both in terms of style and functionality.

Traditionally used as a privacy solution for windows, partitions and general glass architecture, Switchable Smart Glass offers so much more than meets the eye, with its versatility being one of its true benefits. This primes Switchable technology perfectly for innovative privacy solutions that even impress us as manufacturers. One such solution has been the development of Switchable Smart Glass stairs, which is a new innovation of our technology. This project built stylish privacy into a staircase application as part of a barn conversion project for proud owner Simon Baker. In this residential application, the curved stairs sit above the homeowner’s bathroom, providing stylish privacy when required or a contributing to a bright and open space that helps to make the bathroom environment feel spacious. The project owes its expertise to a team of specialists, including Ben Harrison at Windinghouse Interiors who designed, fabricated and installed the stairs and Graeme Harrold from 3-e who integrated the control of it into the lighting using Loxone automation.

One of the biggest aspects of Switchable Glass in a project such as this is its light transmittance properties, which offered a fantastic solution for a room that may have otherwise been dark and void of natural light. The beauty of Switchable Glass here is that even when frosted, natural light is still allowed to spill into the bathroom, keeping this space bright. Indeed, Simon realised very quickly that light would be an issue, noting, ‘I’ve always hated bathrooms with no natural light. With this project it was obvious at an early stage that a window was out of the question and that the bathroom had to be squeezed in beneath the mezzanine, behind the kitchen. However, when I realised that I could get a roof light over the stairs I started to think about the possibilities to try and allow natural light to the bathroom.’ Simon then looked to the idea of transparent stairs in order to combat the issue.

As Ben Harrison explains, ‘The idea was to have a glass staircase to let light in and be an interesting architectural feature.’ As an ambitious and creative idea, even without Switchable Glass, having glass stairs presented challenges, as using see-through stairs left way too little to the imagination when looking into the bathroom, creating a trade-off against his desired effect with privacy. Ben remarks, ‘Obviously you wouldn’t want people peering down on you when on the loo, and rather than have frosted/privacy glass Simon had researched and was keen on using the Switchable Glass.’ Simon adds ‘Once I started to look at possibly including glass or acrylic in the stair construction it became obvious that privacy was a factor that needed addressing. I considered using permanently frosted glass but felt there would be a missed opportunity to be able to see the sky or stars while showering or taking a bath when we didn’t have guests staying.’

Having seen our technology on Grand Designs, Simon contacted Jamie Conroy, Sales Director at Intelligent Glass to advise on this privacy concern. Going into this route of enquiry, Ben and Simon had already decided that the best approach to this project would be to use acrylic rather than glass, allowing for cost saving production of the irregular shapes as well as combating other challenges. However, the creative duo were not sure if Switchable Technology could be used in such an application, so looked to Jamie to advise on the matter. Simon comments ‘I got in touch with Jamie for advice. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to use the switchable film on acrylic, whether it could be used with asymmetric shapes and how we would go about the logistics of finding the correct adhesives, hiding the wiring and sending the acrylic to Intelligent Glass and transporting it back to site.’

Of course, Jamie had a solution that would be ideal for Simon’s needs. Self-Adhesive Switchable Film was recommended as a way to resolve his concerns, ‘The Switchable Film is a fantastic addition to the barn. It certainly provides wow factor but also provides the perfect solution to provide natural light and a view to a space that could have had neither.’ Simon adds, ‘With any project where you go off piste and try to push the boundaries by using materials in new ways it is very easy to get a conservative risk averse response from manufacturers. “We don’t support that application” or “we don’t have any info available” are frequent responses.’

Working with Jamie and our technology opened up this solution for Simon that may not have even been possible with other providers. The willingness from Jamie to push our versatile technology to its limits in rare applications is a real marvel, giving rise to extraordinary solutions across the world. In true Intelligent Glass spirit, Jamie was attentive and supportive in this project, assisting Simon and the team in all lines of enquiry. Simon states ‘Jamie was fantastic and worked with us throughout the project developing the spec, logistics and building a quote that worked with the budget. This was a voyage into the unknown for all of us.’

He continues ‘What was so refreshing about working with Jamie and the team on this is that they were open to a new application for the switchable film and supported us in developing the concept. So often when you’re doing something different you get stuck at an impasse where different craftspeople and manufacturers can’t come together and collaborate and are risk averse. Working with the Intelligent Glass team was just that- an intelligent team who both understood the technical detail of their products but were also willing and interested in sharing their knowledge and expertise and assisting their clients to successfully innovate a new and exciting application for Switchable Film.’

To top this project off, Simon’s preferred activation method is also impressive, using a combination of methods with the Loxone Home Automation System, including Voice Activation to switch his stairs. Simon happily remarks ‘I can turn it on and off from the Loxone pure light switches, it is integrated into certain lighting states and can be changed with Alexa commands. “Alexa, turn on bathroom privacy”.’ Ben Harrison added ‘Switching on/off from in the bathroom is quite magical, with a skylight in the roof above adding to the experience.’

What’s more is that we aren’t the only ones who were impressed with this incredible barn renovation application. Build It Magazine featured the project in a 6-page spread for their October 2019 publication, covering in depth the intricacies of embarking on something like this.

Needless to say, we love working on breath-taking projects such as this. It gives us a chance to push our technology beyond the limits of conventional use and offers a chance at taking pride in a new and exciting project that can really help to innovate the industry’s approach to privacy. This project in particular was one that stood out of us due to the sheer creativity and determination of Simon and his team to innovate. Jamie comments ‘Simon was fantastic to work with and this solution was of great significance. We really enjoyed embarking on this new application of our technology that we have not seen done with such class before. These types of projects are always of interest as they mix up what we do on a day to day basis. It also lets us push the boundaries to further develop the product and what we can achieve. Without clients like Simon, this would not be possible.’


Interested?

Intelligent Glass offers a wide range of Switchable Smart Glass solutions with options including Toughened Glass, Laminated Panels, Smart Glass Windows and the retrofit Self-Adhesive Switchable Film.

If you would like further information, a pricing quote, or to discuss ideas for using our Switchable Smart Glass and Smart Film products, please get in touch using the form below, or call us on +44 (0)1226 351 759.

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