If you’ve ever seen midday sun reflecting off a skyscraper, you’ve probably seen reflective glass. Reflective glass is not mirror, but a form of clear glass that has a thin metallic coating applied to one side. The glass is still transparent up close, but when seen from a distance it appears mirrored and opaque. This mirrored effect is not purely aesthetic — the light-reflecting quality of this type of glass means more sunlight bounces off the exterior of a building rather than being absorbed and re-radiated. This process can significantly reduce heat transmission and glare, assisting with climate control in large indoor spaces.
Reflective glass is made from a base of clear annealed float glass. The metallic coating is added while the glass is cooling on the float line. The purpose of the metallic layer is to reflect UV and infrared rays. This coating is much thinner than the reflective backing used in the production of mirror glass, thus reflective glass remains mostly transparent.
Aside from heat and glare reduction, reflective glass is also used to improve privacy. In buildings with tall glazed facades, privacy can be a concern, especially at street level, where passersby can potentially look into private offices. Despite this, glass walls are favoured for their clean, modern aesthetic. Reflective glass creates a perfect compromise by obscuring the interior side of the window, striking a balance between natural light and privacy.
Reflective glass is a strong aesthetic choice not only because of its reflective qualities, but because it can be produced in a wide variety of tints to suit different colour schemes. Bronze or blue-grey tints are popular choices, and each tint has a unique effect on the sunlight bouncing off it. Seen from the exterior, these types of reflective glass produce a visual effect similar to grey or bronze mirror.
Outside of large commercial applications, reflective glass is also used strategically to improve the energy efficiency of a building. Reflective glass is a popular choice for skylights in private developments. Reflective glass can also be put to great use in statement household windows, particularly those that are large or highly visible from street level, to improve privacy while also offering additional energy savings.