The use of glass on superyachts

For several years now, the exterior design of modern yachts has been increasingly influenced by the size and shape of the windows and glass surfaces.

Outstanding projects that initiated this trend include, are for example: “ECO” (1991 – Blohm & Voss) or “VENUS” (2012 – Feadship, de Fries).

With an age difference of more than 20 years, both Yachts separate worlds in the history of the development of yacht design, but what they have in common is the fact that large, spectacular glass surfaces influence the exterior view on the one hand and the unique feeling of space inside a yacht on the other in a very special way.

While “ECO”, which was launched more than 3 decades ago, was a very courageous and stand-alone project at the time, we can see a disproportionately increasing area of the entire glazing as well as the immense enlargement of individual panes in many current yacht designs in recent years.

This trend was certainly initiated by projects such as the “VENUS” mentioned above and is persistently recognizable in some yachts that have recently been handed over to their owners, such as: “EXCELLENCE” (2019-Abeking & Rassmussen) “ARTEFACT” (2019-Nobiskrug), or “SOLARIS” (2021 Lloyd Shipyard).

While the early drafts of yachts with large glass and window areas initially focused on the implementation based on the production-technical possibilities of the glass industry, the industry today has a large portfolio of products for the manufacture of glazing for large luxury yachts through permanent development.

Various types of interlayers have been developed, for example to increase the strength of laminated glass to be able to manufacture them with a larger area at the same time relatively thin and therefore not critical in terms of weight. Other types increase the sound insulation, provide fire protection, or improve sun protection through their color.

In addition, there are many coatings that improve sun or heat protection and, thanks to their individual visual appearance, are also ideally suited to realizing the yacht’s appearance desired by the designer. A particular example of such a design is certainly the sailing yacht “A” (2017-Nobiskrug). A coating specially developed for this Yacht reproduces the hull color in such a way that the oval windows in the hull are initially barely noticeable, as requested by the designer.

The improved technical possibilities for the manufacture of glazing lead to the fact that exact expectations are placed on the technical and optical properties of the glazing and the visual appearance of the entire yacht. The glazing is no longer a transparent, opening closure, but an essential design element.

Manufacturers can influence the requirements for improved thermal insulation very effectively and uniformly by using neutral, invisible coatings in combination with inert gas fillings in insulating glass.

Compare to that to achieve the visual appearance requested by the designer, requires a large and extensive specialist knowledge of the individual products and their possible combinations, the available sizes, the suitable processes for further refinement and processing and the actual appearance of the finished product after assembly.

Every processing step can influence the appearance of the glazing. A colored reflective coating, for example, can have a desired effect on the visual appearance of glazing from the outside. However, it is possible that they reduce the light transmission in such a way that the interior is perceived as too dark.

Some interlayers enable the production of very strong glazing, such as those required for use in the hull or as an underwater window. The processing of these materials requires a high degree of perfection, as improper processing can result in a strong haze effect or the formation of “lenses” affecting the clarity of the view.

There is a great risk here that expectations will not be met, since the subjective perception of the viewer is now added as an essential assessment criterion to the already existing specifications for the permitted errors and typical product characteristics during manufacture.

The design of the glass surfaces is of great importance for the look of the yacht. It is only logical that not only the view through a window, but also optically relevant properties such as the view of the pane surface, the color or the evenness of the reflection are used as evaluation criteria for the quality of a glazing.

The challenge is to match the expectations of the clients with the possibilities of the manufacturing industry. This is a big task in that there are differences in production quality in industry. The prerequisites for manufacturing a product in accordance with a defined international standard are certainly high and require good quality management. The requirements of the yacht Industry on the products can, however, be assessed as fundamentally stricter, especially with regard to the visual quality of the glazing.

We see several tasks that must be mastered in order to meet the requirements of the yacht industry, by specialists for the development, manufacture and assembly of glazing for superyachts and mega-yachts:

Before starting a project, everyone involved must deal with the topic of glass in more detail than they are used to before. The customer has to define what he expects as precisely as possible, and the supplier has to state what he is able to deliver without making false promises.

The construction of “Moc Up’s”, which has been somewhat neglected in the recent past, can be implemented to a greater extent again in the future. This enables the customer’s expectations to be compared with the manufacturer’s options at an early stage of the project and, if necessary, adjusted.

We can certainly look forward to a multitude of wonderful and outstanding yacht projects in the future, which consider the aesthetic design possibilities of the very old, but through consistent further development, always modern material glass.

About the author
Andreas Schipper (50) advises the yacht industry as consultant on all questions relating to the development and design of glass arrangements for mega yachts and carries out surveys and inspections as an independent expert.

He is working with glass as a German master glazier for over 30 years.

After more than 20 years in the architecture project business, he switched to yacht building in 2008. There he was responsible for the implementation of many outstanding projects as project manager for a leading German supplier for over 13 years.

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