Modern 21st Century Glass Extensions Have Their Advent In History

The origins of the modern day conservatory and orangery is not known with absolute certainty, with some believing the idea for them first came about during Roman times, when it is thought mica sheets were used to allow light in via the roof, given glass had not been invented.

Glass Fronted Lean-To Conservatory

What is certain is that as the British Empire grew from the 17th Century onwards, more exotic plants arrived from overseas, and during the reign of Queen Victoria there was a dramatic increase in the number and types of orangery and conservatory structures.

It is not very surprising therefore that some of today’s more prolific conservatory designs and styles have names like “Victorian conservatory” and “Edwardian conservatory”, as these sort of replicate the styles of conservatory so popular during both these eras.

Despite the fact conservatories came into their own back in Victorian and Edwardian times, there use was rather limited in terms of all year round living space as glass production was still in its infancy.

Conservatories became a way for the better off to cultivate tropical fruits within their grounds (hence the term ‘Orangery’), and also to permit the growth and exhibition of other plants requiring hot “tropical” type conditions.

With the advent of double glazing, the modern day conservatory was born, the first ones being made of timber, with aluminium and UPVC framed conservatories following on.

As glass technology improved, conservatory installers became able to offer double glazing sealed units in the glass roofs that reflected heat and also “self-cleaned” organic material like bird droppings by way of a special external coating on the glass that breaks down the material and causes rainfall to run down the glass more evenly, causing less “streaking”.

Technological advances in the 21st century have seen even better performing double glazed conservatory roof products becoming available that reflect even more heat, whilst still allowing plenty of light in. Aluminium and UPVC double glazing frames that were thermally broken became widely available from around 2007, meaning that homeowners nowadays have the option of buying products that are energy efficient, so are able to have modern double glazed orangeries and conservatories that can be used all year round if properly designed and built with the right combination of insulation, ventilation, glass specification, design, product and build quality.

Lightweight solid roof conservatory products have been developed since the turn of the century, with several different systems available for UK homeowners to choose from. Whilst these insulated internally plastered roofs are more thermally efficient than glass roofs, they don’t let in anything like as much light, and require Building Regulatory Approval, as unlike conservatories, are not deemed as temporary structures. Given local authority planning departments treat solid roof conservatories as extensions, prior planning permission is often required as well as compliance with the Building Regulations, both of which applications will keep you waiting for a decision for a minimum of 6-8 weeks after your submission and payment of fees.

It is also true that in some cases planning permission and/or Building Regulatory Approval is needed for conservatories and orangeries, it all depends on size, location and design etc. Where the Permitted Development Rights on a property are intact no planning is needed in the vast majority of cases, so consequently conservatories and orangeries (depending on design etc.) don’t need planning permission, so can be built faster and for less cost than extensions.

Given the technologically advanced product options now available in the 21st Century bespoke extensions can now be tailor made to each customers’ specific requirements.

Being able to use a glass extension 24/7 is all about getting the right design to work in tandem with well fitted high performance products. For example, ensure you specify as a minimum a) an insulated base using 60-100mm deep floor insulation like Jablite or Celotex, b) thermally broken double glazing with a centre-pane U-Value no higher than 1.2 W/m2K to keep you warm in winter, c) a roof vent that opens to allow rising heat to escape in summer, d) cavity filled 300mm wide walls (if your design includes walls or pillars), e) heat reflective roof glass if your extension is south facing and d) sufficient ventilation via windows and/or trickle vents to allow air to circulate during hotter days.


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