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Creating quiet and comfortable library environments with Selectaglaze secondary glazing

Windows are an important architectural element of many traditional libraries but being single glazed they provide minimal thermal insulation and poor acoustics. Due to technological and design advances in recent years, secondary glazing now provides an attractive and practical solution to these issues, particularly for Listed buildings

Visitors to libraries expect peace and quiet for reading, studying and/or research. Selectaglaze secondary glazing set 100-150mm from the primary window and fitted with standard glass can reduce noise levels by 42-45dB. This can be further reduced if thicker glass is used.

Libraries will often own buildings that are Listed or of historical interest, so any intervention needs to be sensitive and reversible. Selectaglaze secondary glazing is designed to create minimal visual impact on the original windows and building, both internally and externally. The bespoke units are able to mimic and flow with the lines of the original windows, including arched, curved, round and curved on plan.

In the UK we are fortunate to have such a vast collection of libraries, culturally enriching our lives. Housing priceless manuscripts and books; many are in architecturally significant buildings. Most of these are of traditional construction with original single glazed windows that are not able to provide adequate security or environmental protection for what is contained within. Libraries need to protect their most important assets. These could be highly valuable loan pieces, so high levels of security are imperative. Guidance is provided through the Arts Council England, a body that has been contracted to deliver the Government Indemnity Scheme on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. There are a range of measures, but traditional windows feature high on the list as neither the frame nor the glass were designed to give much resistance to intruders.

Selectaglaze’s challenge at Enfield Town’s Library was to help bring the original 1912 building up to today’s demanding standards of thermal and noise insulation while maintaining the Listed character of its Edwardian facade.

To achieve this, Selectaglaze treated a total of 27 sash windows with a combination of vertical sliding counter-balanced units and Lift-Out units, thus enhancing the building’s green credentials and, at the same time, keeping the noise of the town traffic at bay.

The Grade II Listed Plumstead Library in the Royal Borough of Greenwich is one of the earliest funded libraries by Andrew Carnegie, which opened to the public in 1904. Over the ensuing years, areas of the library were closed to the public and the building started to fall into a state of disrepair. Occupying a corner plot on the busy A206, Plumstead High Street, noise was of great concern. In addition, the single glazed metal framed original windows did little to prevent heat loss or draughts. Due to the listing, the original windows could not be changed, so a reversible adaptation had to be found. Hawkins Brown Associates approached Selectaglaze for a bespoke secondary glazed treatment. 

On the north elevation, facing the high street, the library has two sweeping bow windows, which occupy the majority of the ground floor. On the first floor and the return elevation facing east, are a number of metal single glazed windows in various configurations.  They allow light to flood the spaces but did little to help the comfort levels for users. 

A total of 63 Selectaglaze units across the 2 facades were installed, which include Series 10 – 3 pane horizontal sliders, Series 80 – 3 pane horizontal sliders and more. Each sweeping bay overlooking the high street were built up with seven Series 20 vertical sliders, transom coupled to seven Series 45 side hung casements. This configuration complimented the sightlines of the primary windows and allowed full access for cleaning, maintenance and natural ventilation if required. 

Selectaglaze secondary glazing is fully fabricated in-house and delivered to site by Selectaglaze installation teams. Works can be planned for vacant rooms or low occupation areas during normal hours, whilst busy areas can be dealt with outside normal working hours. Many schemes will include wall insulation and the secondary glazing can fit within this to become an integral part of the overall design.

For further details, visit:, T: 01727837271, E:

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