Visitors to New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Dublin, London, and Victoria, BC do not have to look far to notice a beautiful artifact underfoot. Small circles or squares of thick glass—often turned purple or yellow with time—set into iron sidewalk grates.
These are “vault lights,” also known as “bullet glass,” and although they are undoubtedly beautiful, their original purpose was not decorative. The brainchild of inventor Thaddeus Hyatt, they were developed in the mid-19th century to illuminate dark spaces below ships’ decks—without the risk posed by flame-producing torches or lanterns. It wasn’t long before burgeoning cities across Europe and North America adopted the idea of a glass block sidewalk as a way to light sidewalk vaults —below-ground storage spaces or even apartments—which often extended beyond their buildings’ footprints to the areas below sidewalks.
Vault lights were a commonly used building material from the 1860s through the 1930s, but they were widely phased out with the invention of electricity and as the materials broke down over time. However, preservation-minded groups and individuals have sought to reclaim or replace these beautiful and functional panels.
Once more, architects, designers, and property owners are adopting new iterations of vault lights with an appreciation for their nostalgic appeal as well as their contributions to sustainability and energy preservation.
Recapturing the Beauty of Vintage Vault Lights
Whether your project calls for replacing historic vault lights or installing a glass floor to create a contemporary, exciting, and light-filled space, Circle Redmont can help you utilize this architectural feature. Using the technologies we have advanced for more than 50 years, Circle Redmont has reimagined the vault light for both traditional sidewalk applications as well as stairs treads and risers, landings, bridges, decks, and even barrel vaults and skylights. Architects and designers have specified our vault lights to great effect in exterior and interior applications.
Lighter Materials Invite Use Anywhere
Reimagine the glass floor with products from Circle Redmont. We offer vault light panels in cast iron, composite, concrete, and steel. We offer a variety of ways architects and designers can incorporate this feature as glass block sidewalks, stairs, and other architectural features without prohibitive weight or complicated installation.
Though inspired by traditional sidewalk vault lights, these decorative panels can be used in many interior and exterior applications. We custom-fabricate our composite concrete and cast iron panels to meet any specifications. In addition to floor and ground applications, the panels are easily installed overhead or vertically for decorative use.
Cast Iron Vault Lights
Circle Redmont offers prefabricated composite cast iron panels in a standard hammered black painted finish, with or without buttons. Or, for a truly customized effect, architects and designers may choose from a variety of surface finishes and colors. For added light and impact, the panels can be backlit. Our cast iron panels showcase Circle Redmont’s advanced engineering and design capabilities, withstanding live loads up to 600 lbs. while maintaining their historical aesthetic and appeal. The glass prisms are secured in the cast iron frame and are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures, all of which allow for excellent light transmission. All prisms are slip-resistant. Circle Redmont’s cast iron vault lights are manufactured in the United States using environmentally friendly components.
Precast Concrete and Glass Pavers
An alternative to historic vault lights, Circle Redmont offers pavement lights set in precast concrete. Because it’s been trusted for centuries for its strength and performance, concrete can withstand decades of stress and use. Recycle daylight in a variety of glass shapes and sizes.
Circle Redmont’s half-century of research and product development have resulted in concrete-and-glass pavers that deliver lasting safety and reliability. They are ideal for a variety of applications, from public sidewalks to mass transit areas.
Steel and Glass Vault Lights
Like precast concrete vault lights, Circle Redmont’s steel and glass panels are a contemporary iteration of 19th-century vault lights. Featuring glass pavers set into a steel frame, the panels offer maximum glass coverage for exceptional light transmission. In fact, these lights do double duty as both a nighttime underlit walking surface and a daytime skylight.
Circle Redmont’s steel-framed vault lights are offered in regular steel, stainless steel, or hot, dipped, galvanized steel. Choose a powder-coated finish in a variety of custom colors. Square glass-and-steel modules are standard, but historic round prisms are also available. As with all of our products, Circle Redmont’s steel-and-glass panels are rigorously tested and can meet a live load of 100 lbs. per square foot or greater.
Whether you are replacing original Victorian glass-and-iron panels or creating a contemporary statement with vault lights, Circle Redmont has a beautiful and environmentally-friendly way to incorporate light and energy into your next project.
Contact us to learn more about our many glass paver options.