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Vacuum insulated glass tubes come together to form a structural wall that admits daylight while providing high insulation.

To find a facade solution during the design process of one of their projects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) initiated the research and development of vacuum insulated glass tubes. Custom-fabricated glass tubes are formed by two pieces of curved, low-iron glass, joined around an airless chamber, and capped at each end by metal plates. 

The tubes, stacked one beside the next, are self-supporting in heights of up to 4,5 meters—and, when vacuum-sealed and combined into a façade system, they offer an insulation value comparable to that of a solid, insulated wall, despite being fully glazed. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has been working on new iterations, like placing a photovoltaic rod in the middle of each tube, which receives enough focused, concentrated solar energy from the convex surface of the glass around it to generate electricity. 

Photography: © Skidmore, Owings & Merrill