Gold dust in SGI building likely hard to recover, architect says
The potential sale of the headquarters of SGI, the provincial Crown corporation that provides auto insurance, has people talking about the repairs needed on the building and the value of the gold-hued glass windows.
Last week it was learned SGI is looking to see if anyone is interested in buying the downtown Regina tower. It says it might be more economical to sell, and move, than to repair the 33-year-old building.
One element that needs tending to is the glass which has a distinctive gold hue.
Regina architect James Youck, whose company can trace its roots to the SGI development, said the gold colour is due to the addition of gold dust to the windows.
"Putting gold dust into the glass was very technologically advanced at the time of the SGI development and it was a way of conserving energy for the building," Youck explained.
Youck is currently a partner in P3 Architecture, based in Regina.
He said that each pane of glass in the SGI building contains one gram of gold dust.
"We did a little bit of math on that and there's about 38,000 square feet of glass, or 662 pairs of windows," he added. "So ... you come up with, by a long convoluted bit of math, around 42 ounces of gold."
By Youck's figuring all the gold in the glass could be valued at $60,000 to $75,000.
Youck admitted he did not have expertise in glass manufacturing or recycling, but did not think it would be practical to try and recover the gold.
"If you think that you've got to melt down 38,000 square feet of glass I imagine it would take considerable effort," he said.
Youck said the use of gold in glass, while an advanced technique, is not very common.
He said regular glass, with specialized coatings, can achieve the desired savings in energy.
There is also a drawback to gold, he said.
"Gold actually stops an awful lot of the visible light from entering the building," he said. "It tends to make things look very dark."
He said most architects are keen to keep a realistic view of the outside, for the people inside.
Youck said they can also be difficult to source and replace as he was aware of only one company in North America that makes them.
He added it was too soon to speculate on the fate of the SGI building windows, as it would depend on the plan developed for any renovation.
"About 60 per cent of the building is gold glass," he noted, "and then it has a dark bronze panel."
Youck recalled the original design included lots of storage space because SGI was a paper-intensive business.
"So if you were to renovate the building into a new office building, windows are a premium," he said. "You would be looking at replacing, most likely, the [solid] panels with new glass or new windows."
Youck said, ultimately, the choice in windows would be up to the architect who takes up the renovation project.