Student wins scholarship for research into recycling used glass from buildings

By Maria Cook

January 9, 2024

a black and white photograph showcasing a close-up of a thin, undulating piece of glass, creating a smooth wave-like form.
a black and white photograph showing a series of rectangular glass blocks arranged in a staggered, ascending pattern

Master of Architecture thesis student Derek Clouâtre has received the Vanbots Construction and Ferguson-Neudorf Glass Scholarship in Recycling for his research into the re-use of glass from building renovations and demolition.


“Glass is widely identified as one of the least sustainable materials in contemporary building practices, yet we continue to incorporate vast expanses of glass in our design projects, with little thought or regard for the material’s reuse at a structure’s end of life,” says Clouâtre.


“Not only are apertures and insulated glass units some of the building envelope’s hardest points to control thermally, but the production of glass and windows is one of the single worst generators of greenhouse gas emissions of today’s most common construction materials,” he adds.


The $800 scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding graduate student pursuing research in the field of recycling building construction materials, with a preference for work in glass and glazing units.

a black and white composition displaying a collection of six different transparent glass sculptures

Clouâtre’s thesis, [Re]Shaping Transparencies, focuses on the potential of upcycling or downcycling float glass, the typical glass found in most glazing systems. The goal is to uncover diversion strategies for used glazing units and glass offcuts, ultimately keeping these materials out of landfill sites.


His thesis advisor is Associate Professor Lisa Moffitt.


Clouâtre’s research includes exploring the properties of kiln-formed glass and creating collages that probe how composition and layered transparencies can generate intellectually stimulating environments.


 He will also make two glass installations for his thesis project. A model-scale exterior installation will propose ideas for developing unconditioned transition spaces between temperate exteriors and conditioned interiors. A human-scale interior installation will communicate the optical and translucent properties of kiln-formed glass while also bringing attention to the environmental implications of glass production and waste creation.


“The work is situated in relation to a wider body of contemporary glasswork, sitting somewhere between artistic glass, architectural glass, and functional glazing systems,” he says.

a sleek, modern glass object with an oval cutout in the center
bent glass forming an arch on top of a cylindrical metal base
a black and white photograph showing a series of upright, curved glass sheets placed in a row, creating a repetitive, wavelike pattern.

The scholarship was announced by the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research upon the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design.


Vanbots Construction Corporation and Ferguson-Neudorf Glass Inc. endowed the award in 2006. It stems from work performed on the Bank of Canada during the Exterior Glazing System Remediation Project which involved a large amount of glass and other building fenestration material being removed without a suitable recycling application available for these materials.