Glass extensions of today are a product of history
The origins of what we call today “conservatories” and “orangeries” are not known with ultimate certainty. Some researchers believe the idea for them came about during Roman times. What we can be certain of thanks to old photos, newspapers and sketches from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, is that as the British Empire expanded into many countries, more and more exotic plants arrived from overseas causing a substantial increase in the number and types of orangery and conservatory designs, particularly during the reign of Queen Victoria of England.
No one should be surprised that many of this Century’s more popular orangery and conservatory designs have names like “Victorian” and “Edwardian”, given the fact conservatories really came into their own during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Back in these olden days their use was somewhat restricted limited in terms of being able to be used as all year round living space. Conservatories in Victorian times became a way for the elite and well off to cultivate tropical fruits within their grounds, hence the origination of the term “Orangery”.
After double glazing became more widespread in the UK after the 1930′s, conservatories became more popular, initially being made of timber, with aluminium and UPVC framed double glazed conservatories following on. As glass technology improved over the years conservatory installers were then able to offer double glazing sealed units in the glass roofs that genuinely reflected a significant amount of heat. Pilkington developed reflective glass that was “self-cleaning”, breaking down organic material like bird droppings by way of a special external coating they applied on the external surface of the outer glass pane.
Technological advances in the last two decades have seen better performing double glazed conservatory roof products becoming available in the UK marketplace that reflect even more heat, whilst still allowing plenty of light into conservatories and orangeries. Aluminium and PVCu double glazed frames that were thermally broken became widely available from about 2008 onwards, meaning that since that time homeowners have had the option of buying products that are truly energy efficient, enabling them to have double glazed glass extensions that can be used all year round, on the assumption they have been properly designed and installed with the right combination of insulation, ventilation, glass specification, design, product and build quality.
More recently, lightweight solid roof conservatory products have been developed, with several different systems available to choose from. Whilst these insulated internally plastered roofs are more thermally efficient than glass roofs, they don’t let any light via the roof unless roof windows are fitted, still leaving room in the marketplace for glass roof conservatories and orangeries.
Being able to use an orangery or conservatory extension all year round whatever the British weather is all about getting a decent design to work in tandem with well fitted high performance products. For example, to ensure you can use your extension with a glass roof all year round make sure you specify as a minimum the following i) an insulated base using deep floor insulation within the concrete base like Celotex or Jablite, ii) thermally broken double glazing with a centre-pane U-Value of 1.2 W/m2K, which will keep you warm in winter, iii) a roof vent that can be opened to allow rising heat to escape in summer, iv) cavity filled 300mm wide walls (if your design includes walls), v) heat reflective roof glass (if your extension is south facing) and vi) sufficient ventilation created by windows with a night vent facility to allow air to circulate during hotter days.