“The Peak” Project

The Project:

JH Glass has created a unique glazed centrepiece for a landmark residence in Queensland’s Park Ridge – an ingenious transparent glass door, spanning the width of an entire room. John Hyde, Managing Director of JH Glass, explains how this marvel was created.

This glazed floor-mounted door serves multiple purposes, including a floor, an access door, and a balustrade when opened. The inventive design pays respect to the residence’s unique character, opening right onto Park Ridge’s incredible bushland views.

Creating this hefty yet high-transmittance design required considerable vision. ‘The client was looking for something different to provide access to the entire upper floor area,’ says John. ‘To meet this challenge, we decided that the entire space should be glazed to take full advantage of the unforgettable surroundings.’ Although the client was seeking a visual point of distinction, he hadn’t yet considered suspending a glass door over the span. ‘When I mentioned the idea, he was very enthusiastic,’ John remembers. ‘He quickly realised that the entire area could be utilised when the door was closed, whereas a more conventional setup would have made a large section of the floor unusable.’

With the trapdoor design decided on, JH Glass began sourcing specialised componentry to make the ambitious scheme feasible. ‘We had planned to open and close the door via hydraulics or a worm drive, but both these options were too noisy and cumbersome for the elegant setting,’ John reveals. ‘Instead, we sourced a pair of much quieter electronic actuators to do the job.’ Precision was key. ‘We spent much time with CAD design and 3D modelling to ensure the door could fully clear the stairwell without jeopardising strength or causing safety concerns,’ John explains. ‘To add another layer of difficulty, the mechanism had to have full power backup.’

John collaborated with his friend and colleague Anthony Paul, owner/principal of SMP Consulting in Cairns, to ensure optimal functionality throughout. ‘After agreeing on exactly what we required from the project, we joined forces to hone the trapdoor design,’ he says. ‘We wanted a sharply polished appearance, like mirror-finish stainless steel.  Although I’ve seen designs with glass panels encased in a large metal perimeter frame, this is the first fully frameless operable floor panel I’m aware of.’

Hauling the massive door panel into place was a detailed and carefully planned operation. ‘As the glazed sheet weighed in at 700kg, every measurement had to be spot on,’ John recalls. ‘We used a gigantic piece of 35.52mm SG toughened laminate, which was craned in over the top of the house using the adjacent spare allotment.

‘The glass was subsequently lowered into the entertainment area onto nylon blocks located inside the main partition, then onto a jib so we could wheel it around inside,’ John continues. ‘As all the work took place well inside the building, we had to manually lift this huge sheet into position with assistance from nine people – there was simply no other option!’ One the glazing was lowered into place, attaching and perfectly aligning the custom made bracketry was the next essential step. This may sound easy in comparison, but it wasn’t. ‘The twin electronic actuators operating the door had to open and close at identical rates, because one would overload the circuit if it received more load than the other,’ John explains. ‘This situation actually occurred during installation, which we discovered using electric tongs that gave a reading of 9 amps on one side and 2 amps on the other.’ The reason was bracket misalignment.

‘When we detected the current imbalance, we removed the mounting brackets from the underside of the slab and elongated the
holes to allow for perfect alignment and thus giving us an even distribution of current,’ John remembers. ‘As every part had been
fabricated according to our CAD design, it all worked out in the end.’ The trapdoor is supported with biometric technology for maximum security and convenience. ‘We hooked up two biometric access points at the top and the bottom of the stairwell, accessible via a fob, a fingerprint, or a punch code,’ John reveals.

‘We promised to check on the project three months after completion, and I’m pleased to say it’s functioning optimally after we sorted out those teething issues with the actuators.’ JH Glass is now looking to expand on this successful project. ‘After we’d cracked the challenge of fitting the unit into a concrete rebate which was fixed into the slab, we’ve started designing similar units in the factory,’ he says. ‘But there’s a key difference – our new units feature a steel ring beam that can be cast right into the slab, then dropped straight into the floor at whatever size the client requires. ‘This modification to the original design makes things far easier for us,’ John continues.

‘During the Peak project, it was a painstaking process ensuring the glass slotted into the concrete to the millimetre. If the assembly is constructed with a steel ring beam, however, it’s spot-on every time. Having made this refinement to our manufacturing process, we’re now preparing to send similar glazed doors all around the country. Compared to the first time around, installing future units should be a cinch.’ Judging by this striking display of aesthetic and mechanical ingenuity, JH Glass’s trapdoor design is set to become a highly sought-after innovation.

James Residence, Cairns QLD

The Project

The James Residence was awarded the AGGA Queensland, 2017 Domestic Over $20k Award for its custom design of the glass and stainless-steel staircase.
The project incorporated a custom designed glass floor leading into the water closet over an internal pond lined with painted spectra glass as was the pool coping and external planter boxes.
The custom glass and stainless-steel staircase with glass balustrade and glass landing was clad in mirror polished stainless steel with DMX controlled LED lighting in the treads.

North Shore, Cairns QLD

Project Description


The recently renovated penthouse at North Shore Towers in Cairns, Queensland, features a breathtaking list of glass and glazing ‘firsts’, including a cantilevered glass pool and spiral glass staircase.

The Project

Few projects have the capacity to leave an observer awestruck, and even fewer become instant classics, but the mutli million dollar renovation of the South Penthouse in North Shore Towers, overlooking the blue waters of tropical Cairns, sets new standards of glass and glazing craftsmanship, design creativity and engineering boldness.

This renovation, with glass and glazing provided by local firm John Hyde Glass and Aluminium (JH Glass Innovation Pty Ltd), took 18 months to complete, and was a finalist at the AGGA 2015 Glass and Glazing Design Awards for best residential project (over $20,000); and winner of the 2015 Glass and Aluminum Association of Queensland (GAAQ) award in the same category.

Every glazed element of this project is innovative – all features were developed according to exacting design criteria, pushing the limits of engineering workability and leaving more than a few tradespeople with goose bumps along the way! At every turn, trade contributors banished off-the-shelf convenience in favour of customised solutions and a desire to bring the owners’ personal vision to reality.

The principal windows, for example, each measuring 2,200mm high x 4,200mm wide and weighing 400kgs, had to be craned to the 14th-level penthouse at opportune moments to avoid wind interference and allow for safe installation – a process that took many anxious days, according to John Hyde, Managing Director of John Hyde Glass & Aluminium. All glass balustrades used 17.04mm Sky Glass requiring no top handrail.


Perhaps the most stunning features of the penthouse are the extraordinary cantilevered glass pool, and the sparklingly brilliant spiral glass staircase. Both of these constructions are unique in Australia, and both were the result of painstaking research and commitment.

The total suspended weight of the pool is 16 tons, all held in place by four panels of 82.84mm clear laminated safety glass.

“We were lucky to have Chas Gianarakis from C.M.G. Consulting Engineers working on the project,” John says. “He’s an amazing guy, probably one of the best engineers in the country and one of the most sought after because he’s a lateral thinker; whatever the computer spits out, he won’t take that for gospel.”

John says the pool came to fruition thanks to some good fortune, involving some strong steel beams extending back into the building from the pool surrounds, which served as anchors for the new work. “We actually procured the original plan and it showed there were two central pillars that went the full height of the building and were going to sit underneath those two beams – if they were a metre or two to the side, the pool wouldn’t have happened as it did.”

Once weights and loads and glass specifications had been determined, John explains, steel components were made locally, and the decision made to use glass rather than polycarbonate or acryclic. “There was a lot involved – even the polished stainless steel at the top is actually a structural channel that ties it back to the building as well. When I look back at it now, I think it’s probably overengineered, but because it had never been done we couldn’t take any chances.”

The pool is approximately 4,000mm long, with the glass-cantilevered section protruding 2,200mm out from the façade. The sides are 1,500mm tall. “The front side of the glass is about 1500mm x 4,300mm, and that one piece alone weighs about 1.5 tons,” John says.

“The other thing that makes it special is that there aren’t many places where there would have been access to get the cranes we needed to make this work,” John explains. “We needed 150-200 tonners to crane these panels up, so there were a lot of things that had to come together. There were certain times when there was some trepidation, you might say, but I wouldn’t ask anything of the guys that I wouldn’t do myself!”

Filling the pool with water was itself nerve-wracking, John notes, but thankfully there were no structural deviations following the addition of so much weight.


Equally stunning is the glass and steel staircase, complete with curved balustrading, which serves as a centerpiece of light and delicacy within the penthouse, setting the scene for all the residence’s other glazed elements. A mirror-polish stainless steel column forms the backbone of the staircase, which is a stand-alone cantilevered installation. All holes were precut based on CAD input: “There are no fixings holding the stringer up, it’s all hanging off its own weight affixed to the floor and the landing, which made it very special,” John says. “We had those stairs 85% finished, and even then I wasn’t sure if it was going to work.”

Amazingly, just a few metres away from this inspiring structure are other similarly jaw-dropping pieces, including a 7,000mm saltwater fish tank (the largest in an Australian residence), as well as a mirror-backed bar, backlit with fully programmable LED lights that can change to any colour of the rainbow and alter the mood of the conjoined shelving and vortex water features.

‘Bubble walls’ (i.e. slimline floor-to-ceiling tanks) separating bedrooms from ensuites are also engineering feats in their own right.

“They’re only 50mm wide,” John explains, “so there’s not a large volume of water inside.” Some 50 air hoses deliver air into these tank-walls, and the amount of bubbling can be adjusted. Surrounding walling opens out to offer access in case there is ever a problem with the bubble walls – “It took several weeks just to fabricate the surrounding cupboards that encase those bubble walls.”


The staircase, bar, bubble walls and practically every other customized feature of the penthouse are linked to custom-designed lighting and other automated devices, all controlled from an iPad or smartphone. John says the programmability includes the ability to change colours, activate or switch off lights based on sensors, or even link effects to sound systems and entertainment units.

It is testament to the brilliance of the design that cabling is strung out amidst so much glass without being noticeable.

Overall, the entire penthouse renovation is a billet doux to glass – a homage to its power as a resilient but delicate material, and simultaneously a reminder to builders of its strength and engineering adaptability.

In commending the project for the abovementioned GAAQ design award, the judges had this to say: ‘This residence exemplifies all the fine qualities of glazing in terms of reflectivity, transparency, lightness and texture… Detailing is of the highest level and there has been careful consideration of how the glazing can complement the internal spaces without distracting from an amazing aspect. The coordination of lighting, water features, internal finishes with all the various elements of glazing should be commended.”

Solis, Hamilton Island QLD

Project Description

With views across the Whitsunday Islands, architecturally-designed ‘Solis’ is a multi-award-winning home without peers.  Located on Hamilton Island, the design and construction of the home were inspired by the natural surroundings and desire to capture the incredible island and the ocean views from as many vantage points as possible.

The Project

Splendid Isolation

It’s not every day you get approached to help realise a project for the ages. But that’s what happened to Queensland based JH Glass Innovation, when they were approached to work on a ground breaking residence, Solis, nestled in one of Hamilton Island’s most cherished locations. John Hyde, Managing Director sets the scene, explaining how he became involved with a masterpiece.

‘We were approached by the builder, Greg Matthews Building,’ he remembers. ‘They were doing a project for a family that purchased two blocks side by side, in the unforgettable location of Hamilton Island’s Point Henning.’

From the project’s beginning, it was clear that the house would evolve into something special. Combining rough, textured concrete surfaces with glazing’s sheen, the home’s complex yet intuitive style perfectly complements its secluded natural location.

‘It’s a remarkable building – all concrete, with an impressive 30mof this material going towards its construction,’ says John. ‘Even the concrete footings used in this place were incredible feats of building and engineering, being designed to withstand a category 3 cyclone. This remarkable house isn’t going anywhere!’ and this was proved in 2017 by how well the house faired during Cyclone Debbie.

And while the house’s robust timber-look board formed concrete doesn’t give anything away, it’s an environmental wonder boasting incredible levels of sustainability. ‘The “green roof” cools the building naturally, for example,’ notes John. ‘Landscaping all contributes to reduce the site’s impressively minimal energy consumption.

‘The architect Renato D’Ettorre from Renato D’Ettorre Architects, has designed the garden areas and ponds as part of the house’s cooling system – it’s incredible’ John continues. Expansive pools and ponds were primarily located to reduce radiant heating.

As befits such a home, the challenging brief exercised every facet of JH Glass Innovation’s expertise. ‘We were called in to do the four massive pool windows, as well as the huge glass skylight perched over the main double height living area,’ he says. ‘Combined, these engineering challenges occupied us for some time.’

The glazing now seems like an organic component, but the sheer physical demands required to haul those large glass panels into position won’t be forgotten in a hurry. John does his best to recreate the scope of what had to be done.

Start with the skylight, as the photos illustrate. ‘We fabricated a special structural frame to house the skylight,’ John says. ‘Working daily under this fully enclosed glass portal, featuring an encased glass bridge, was a spectacular experience.’

Figuring out how to incorporate that piece of glazing called for lateral thinking. ‘The large skylight over the living room ceiling measured 2.4m x 3.4m – all in one piece,’ says John. ‘We had to fabricate a huge structural frame to support that piece of glazing, fit it to the glass, and lower the entire section into position.’

Adding to the drama was a set of operable louvers, which were equally challenging to fit. ‘These were made and fitted over the top to moderate sunlight in the living areas during the day,’ says John. ‘At night, the owner can lie in bed, open the louvers and look at the stars!’

The pool walls contain a vast proportion of glass. ‘Each pool window we installed was the biggest manufactured in Australia at the time,’ he says. ‘At 900mm high and 6m long, they were absolutely huge. Each one was constructed from triple-layered laminated toughened glass, with each sheet weighing a little over one tonne.’

Getting each of these into position was challenging. ‘Each of those pieces of glass had to be road freighted through the island’s harbour, then loaded onto a barge, then shipped to this remote site before being installed.

‘To hoist these oversized glass panels up to the level of the pool wall’s exterior, we actually had a smaller version of a tower crane transported onsite,’ he remembers. ‘Only a project of this high end construction could manage a piece of heavy-duty machinery like that … but there was simply no other way we could have lowered those 6m glazed sheets into position.’

These windows were at the cutting edge of manufacturing capacity. ‘The pool windows were originally going to be even longer, but that was the biggest glazed sheet the glass processor could produce at the time. That extremely heavy multi-layer laminated sheet – three layers of 19mm laminated – resulted in a complete thickness of 60.04mm for that pool window.

‘The challenges with this job went far beyond simply delivering the materials onto the site,’ says John. One of these was the more lenient tolerances of the concrete structure’s window openings. ‘As the structure was entirely made of concrete, there was more “give” with the dimensions,’ John says. ‘That meant we had substantially more variability when trying to fit those windows.’

The roughened look added to the difficulty. ‘With that more rustic finish in many areas, we had to work with openings that had been cut and cast straight into the concrete,’ says John. ‘Once the portal glass was in successfully, for example, we had to trim it out with custom flashings to make it look as visually precise as it could possibly be.’

Throughout the process, John remembers his continued fruitful interactions with the architect. ‘The architect, Renato D’Ettorre, was heavily involved throughout,’ says John. ‘During this award-winning project, he’d consistently tell us what he wanted to achieve and the exact finish he wanted. His precision and clear communications made fulfilling the brief easier.’

Renato D’Ettorre Architects

The design is notable for its visual simplicity, a feature linked to the architect’s emphasis on liveability. ‘The interior expands as you walk through it and the circulation is fluid,’ John explains. ‘The separate spaces are functionally linked to each other intuitively. The whole house is filled with a multitude of thoughtful, well considered connections.’

Durability was key to the brief. ‘The owner wanted something relatively maintenance-free under harsh conditions, which will take their toll on any premises in that region,’ says John. ‘He was so pleased with the result that he built a similar one next door on his other block!’

The beautiful site’s restrictions affected the building process. ‘Being on an island, was extra-challenging, because we couldn’t just duck out and grab something whenever we needed it,’ he says.

JH Glass Innovation’s involvement unfolded over several sessions. ‘We did the entire job in four trips,’ says John. ‘I first visited to measure the dimensions of the first lot – including pool windows, skylight, and balustrading. Our work on the project took shape over 12 months, because we had to wait for each subsequent stage to be completed before beginning our own work.’

Chas Gianarakis, Engineer at CMG Consulting Engineers, outlines some of the project’s structural hurdles. ‘We worked on the glass roof and walkway, where we were challenged by the house’s location in a cyclonic zone in very open terrain, with a high uplift and lateral wind loads.’

‘Wind loads were the controlling factor when designing the skylight,’ Chas continues. ‘We had to tie it down with some steel galvanised components we manufactured, which had to support the structure without being sucked off the roof.’

‘The roof skylight was made of toughened laminate – 2 x 19mm sheets of toughened glass, with 2.28mm SGP interlayer laminates the panels together. We also did the pool windows, which were 60.04mm toughened laminate – 3 x 19mm toughened glass with 2 layers of 1.52mm SGP interlayer.

‘One of our aims was to minimise bolts, clamps and fixing elements on everything we created,’ Chas continues. ‘For example, the challenge in creating the glazed link between bedroom and ensuite was to make this section aesthetically pleasing – meeting both the architect and clients’ brief while retaining structural integrity with a frameless design.’

Achieving this required deep knowledge of how the materials interacted. ‘A detailed project such as this drew on expertise we had accumulated over a long period, through testing and constructing prototypes,’ he notes. ‘In constructing that frameless glass link, for example, we had to understand exactly where each of the loads would be applied to the glazing.’

It’s impressively heartening to see the results of such meticulous dedication and craftsmanship, a house offering its lucky owner a commanding yet sensitive presence within an unforgettable natural landscape.

Renato D’Ettorre Architects www.dettorrearchitects.com.au

In 2011, Solis receive the National Architecture Award for Residential Architecture from the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), along with the Robin Dods Award for Residential Architecture from the Queensland Chapter of the AIA.

The AIA National Residential Award is the most significant residential architecture prize awarded in Australia.