The History of Glass Blocks

While most of us admit that glass blocks are functional and beautiful in whatever setting they are used, not all of us are aware of their origin. Glass is one of the greatest and lasting inventions by man. It has been reimagined throughout history and applied to different places and items. From doors, windows, decorative vases, mirrors, and bottles, glass is all around you. But who invented glass bricks? Glass bricks were invented by Gustave Falconnier, a Swiss engineer and architect, in 1886. After that, other companies followed suit, and soon, glass blocks became very popular.

Original Patent for Glass Block

Despite its early invention, the durability and strength of glass back then were still limited. In 1907, a German company called Deutsche Luxfer-Prismen-Gesellschaft patented the process of strengthening the material used in making glass blocks. They would join two glass pieces to create a single unit that was hollow inside. That vacuum inside improved the insulating qualities of glass, hence allowing for:

  • Sound deadening qualities
  • Energy Insulation
  • Fireproofing capabilities

Introduction of Glass Blocks to the Market

When was the glass block first used? Glass blocks were first used in 1933 by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. They used glass to construct the Owens-Illinois Block Building, which was made of only glass blocks (about 25,000 blocks). However, this was just a temporary structure, specifically built for exhibition purposes. Soon after that, Owens-Illinois would begin advertising itself by mentioning the advantages of glass blocks, most of which still remain the reason why modern architects choose glass in construction. Some of those features include:

  • Low cost
  • Fire resistance
  • Easy to maintain, clean, and replace
  • Improved thermal resistance
  • Uniformity
  • Light transmitting abilities
  • Strength and durability
  • Sound deadening abilities

Because of these features, glass became extremely popular as a building material around the 1940s. Most buildings that used it were in the Art Deco or Streamline Moderne styles.

In the 2000s, there was a small decline in glass popularity. However, the material has managed to make a comeback and continues to be a popular building material in today’s architecture.

Glass Block Architecture in the 21st Century

Today, you will find glass blocks in a variety of colors, textures, patterns, sizes, and degrees of transparency. Plus, technology makes it possible for one to get glass for any project. Modern uses of glass include:

  • Walls and windows
  • Building facades
  • Vintage and new industrial projects
  • Commercial and residential applications such as partitions for rooms

The Main Players in Glass Block

As glass blocks continue evolving, there have been several known manufacturing industries in the U.S. The most common include:

  • Owens-Illinois Glass Company
  • Seves Glass Block Inc.
  • Pittsburgh Corning

Seves Glass Block company has managed to stay in the market due to its determination to adapt to market changes, trends, and demands.

If you are building and are considering using glass blocks, let Beavertown Block Co., Inc. help. We have been operating since 1922, supplying different construction materials to Pennsylvania residents. We deliver quality glass blocks that are durable and appealing. Give us a call today, and let us be part of your construction project.