Let there be light and energy efficiency

Driving through newer residential communities and past newly constructed commercial buildings, it’ hard not to notice the increased use of large windows and glass facades in building design. However, a proclivity for floor-to-ceiling windows — while aesthetically gorgeous and allowing lots of natural light to enter our living spaces — results in major efficiency issues. In summer months, all that beautiful sunshine means higher costs for cooling and, conversely, heat loss in winter is inevitable even if windows are high quality and sealed and fitted properly. Enter smart glass, an option that promises to bring together the best of abundant glass while improving energy efficiency.

Just how smart is that glass?

According to Barbara Vergetis Lundin’s web article for FierceEnergy.com: “Smart glass provides dynamic glare, light and heat control based on ambient conditions or manual controls.” Essentially smart glass, which is also known as switchable, dimmable, or dynamic glass or glazing, adjusts to external conditions or pre-programmed controls and either lightens or darkens to control factors such as improved insulation, glare control, or passive heating and lighting levels. Research to date shows significant improvements in not only a building’s energy efficiency, but also a boost in occupant comfort and satisfaction with the use of smart glass.

Making smart glass affordable

Like most advances in energy efficiency, widespread acceptance usually hinges on making the technology comparable pricewise to traditional building materials. Fortunately, Spain’s National Research Council (CSIS) holds a patent for a material that can be used in smart glass production that is easier and cheaper to produce than original iterations of the glass. This material is composed of thin films which change from transparent to opaque when exposed to dry or moist air. The CSIS team credits cheaper materials and a simpler production process for the significant cost savings. According to CSIS researcher David Levy, “…a square metre of other models costs thousands of Euros, whereas in our case, it only costs several cents of Euro.”

Accelerated growth projected for the smart glass sector

Eric Bloom, senior analyst with Chicago-based research company Navigant, estimates that the volume of installed smart glass will increase from fewer than 250, 000 square metres, to more than 2.7 million square metres in the next 10 years. According to Bloom, “The past year has seen several positive developments for the smart glass sector, including the establishment of new industrial-scale production capacity, increased levels of investment, and partnership announcements between smart glass technology companies and upstream and downstream suppliers and participants.”

Smart glass: a window to the soul of energy efficiency

While retrofitting your commercial building or home with smart glass windows may not be feasible right now, inevitably windows will need replacing at some point, and investing in smart windows is a smart choice. When evaluating whether or not you want to take the plunge and install smart glass windows, remember to factor in the savings you can expect to see in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning costs. Alternatively, there may be specific exposures or windows that would benefit most from the installation of smart glass.

Smart glass is a terrific example of eco-smart technology that aims to satisfy modern architectural trends without sacrificing energy efficiency. Even if you’re not in the market for these windows right now, be sure to keep a finger on the pulse of smart glass – it should be fascinating to watch as the technology evolves over the next few years.

About The Author

John Keirstead
John Keirstead
Serial Entrepreneur, Technologist and Inventor.
My objective is to develop useful products that have a net positive effect in the lives of those that use them and the environment that we live in.
CEO of Mission LED Lighting Company Ltd.

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