Not only are local builders, developers and architects designing homes with more glass windows to complement the Florida lifestyle, they're also adding wider walls of sliding glass and in more than one room.
According to GOM Group's Web site on "Glass History", glass is one of the most ancient of all materials known and used by mankind. Manmade glass objects appear to have been first reported in the Mesopotamian region as early as 4,500 B.C., and glass objects as far back as 3,000 B.C. have been found in Egypt.
It wasn't until 100 A.D., according to the Web site, that the cost of glass rapidly declined, and for the first time glass became available to the non-aristocracy class. And in 1693, France became the dominate producer of flat glass for mirrors and windows as the Saint Gobain factory became the "Manufacture Royle des Glaces de France."
In the United States, the future of glass windows changed dramatically, thanks to a Wisconsin man, Hans Andersen. On June 4, 1903, Hans, his wife Sarah, and sons Herbert, 18, and Fred, 17, had a family meeting and agreed to launch a new business, the Andersen Lumber Co., later known as The Andersen Corp., with its subsidiary, Andersen Windows.
Andersen's plan was to revolutionize the window framing business by standardizing window frames and mass producing them using an assembly line system.
According to the company's Web site, Andersen knew there were no uniform window frames on the market and that frames were either made on the spot by carpenters or fabricated at lumber yards or millshops and usually fit so poorly they didn't keep air or moisture out very well.
Andersen's two-bundle method allowed his carpenters to assemble window frames in 10 minutes.
By 1907, Andersen, later named by Builder Magazine as one of the most influential figures in the industry, and his handful of employees, could produce approximately 120 frames a day at a cost of 50 cents per frame.
It wasn't until 1962 that The Andersen Corp. introduced gliding glass patio doors to the American marketplace.
"The history of sliding glass doors at Andersen actually dates back approximately 10 years earlier to the early '50s," said Stacy Einck, The Andersen Corp.'s centennial project manager. "During that time, the company discovered the largest gliding windows it offered were actually being used by some builders with a few modifications as sliding glass doors."
Einck added, after recognizing the trend, Andersen set out to develop gliding glass doors for the fast growing housing market.
"The architects designing homes in the '50s and '60s started to incorporate more outdoor patio areas into their designs," said Einck. "The parents of the baby boomer generation were prospering and had growing families. Many moved from rural to urban or suburban settings. Outdoor patios became an important extension of the home, whether it was for family barbecues or entertaining and sliding glass doors provided the access to the fun."
"When it comes to walls of sliding glass we've come along way," said Greg Schmidt, president of Naples-based Coastal Breeze Homes. "It would be hard to imagine the innovators of the window industry envisioning the extent glass is used in today's architectural home designs."
Coastal Breeze Homes' two models in Wildcat Run are perfect examples.
"These homes were designed with 10-foot high, tinted and tempered walls of glass to bring the outdoors in, or as others prefer, the indoors out," said Schmidt. "Homeowners in Florida love to entertain family and friends and walls of retractable glass are one way to easily expand the living area of a home."
The Etesian II, a four-bedroom/study/four-bath plan with 3,030 square feet under air and 4,794 total square feet, features walls of sliding glass in three areas of the home that lead to the outdoor living area and lanai. Those areas include the grand foyer, the dining room and the grand room/family room located off the kitchen.
The Sirocco, a three-bedroom/study/four-bath home with 3,508 square feet under air and 5,255 total square feet, features walls of sliding glass in the formal living room, the family room and even an optional guest cabana.
"Many of the homes we design and build have between 40 to 60 linear feet of sliding walls of glass," said Schmidt. "This amount of glass is usually found in million-plus dollar homes, but is becoming increasingly popular with homes in all price ranges, especially the $500,000 to $900,000 range which we specialize in."
Changes to Florida's construction codes two years ago, as it relates to hurricanes, actually has improved the durability and quality of sliding glass walls, according to Coastal Breeze Homes vice president, Steve Mackey.
"The glass itself, as well as the frames, are more heavy duty and as a result they weigh much more than the sliding glass panels of two years ago," said Mackey. "However, that extra weight has greatly improved the door's or wall's glide system, making it easier for just about any one to open and close longer and heavier walls of glass."
Energy efficiency is another question that surfaces regarding homes with walls of glass.
"Even though the glass is tinted, walls of glass are not going to be as energy efficient as cement block walls and smaller windows," said Schmidt. "However, we design our plans so that the walls of glass are under roof and less likely to receive direct sunlight. We can accomplish this by always designing large under-roof lanais in our outdoor areas."
Coastal Breeze Homes recently completed Jeff and Maria Connery's new home, a Sirocco floor plan with approximately 50 linear feet of sliding glass walls.
"Our new home has many great features but we especially love the walls of sliding glass," said Jeff Connery, a native of Massachusetts. "With so much glass, we have a great view of the golf course and lakes behind us from every major room."
"The fact the glass sliders are 10 feet high, combined with the stepped-up coffered ceiling in areas like our living room, makes each room feel larger and more open," said Maria Connery. "And, since the glass walls pocket completely back and are hidden from view, the interior of our home becomes an extension of the exterior. Our friends compliment us all the time on the home's 'wow' factor."
Walls of sliding glass are not only found in single-family homes, but are also a highlighted feature at Sancerre, a new nine-story, gulf-front building with 23 luxury residences at 1801 Gulf Shore Blvd., north of Lowdermilk Park.
Ann Marie Shimer, a broker/associate with Premier Properties, the exclusive marketing agent for Sancerre, said the walls of sliding glass and the views they provide are one of the first things potential buyers notice when they walk into Sancerre's furnished model.
"The architect for Sancerre smartly designed the floor plans with angled interior walls that take the eye directly to the floor-to-ceiling walls of sliding glass and the view of the gulf beyond," said Shimer.
Sancerre's 02 residence is a four-bedroom/four-bath plan with 4,653 square feet under air and 5,115 square feet. The walls of sliding glass found in the grand salon, family room and master retreat all lead to the condominium's nearly 44-foot-long screen-enclosed terrace.
The 03 design is a four-bedroom/4-1/2-bath plan with 4,253 square feet under air and 4,908 total square feet. The walls of sliding glass in the grand salon/dining room, family room and master retreat all lead to the home's 58-foot-long screen-enclosed terrace.
Prices for the remaining luxury condominiums at Sancerre begin at $2,550,000.
"With so much glass, our residents have a 'perch-type' feeling, as if they are living on outside," said Shimer. "That's not only because of the main walls of sliding glass, but our two plans also have glass sliders in the dens and guest bedrooms that lead to smaller terraces that offer views in several directions."