Architects have a love/hate relationship with the sun. That’s the crux of findings in a new survey conducted by Hanley Wood, a leading media and information company in the construction industry, which we commissioned.
More than 99 percent of the nearly 500 architects surveyed believe people perform their jobs or activities better in buildings when exposed to natural light. And almost 98 percent of architects surveyed felt occupants perform better when they have a view and connection to the outdoors.
When uncontrolled, however, abundant sunlight can adversely affect building occupants as much as it benefits them, with problems such as glare, heat gain and fading. That’s why more than 93 percent of architects surveyed also agree that solar control is a significant challenge when designing glass into buildings.
We’ve long argued that traditional approaches to controlling sunlight have frustrated architects who love to design with glass. Controls such as mechanized shades, blinds or exterior louvers may block the sun but also limit exposure to daylight and the view to the outdoors, which are the very reasons why windows are designed into building facades. The survey supports our case. Only 39% of architects agree that they are satisfied with options for managing solar control today. Furthermore, 17% of architects pointedly indicate that they are not satisfied with conventional sun control options.
The survey also found that the use of energy-efficient glass is aligned with a majority of architects’ green design objectives. Approximately two-thirds of architects surveyed said that they typically design buildings with LEED® principles in mind. This viewpoint indicates a growing awareness of sustainable building design practices in the industry over the past 10 years, and bodes well for new glazing technologies like dynamic glass that can demonstrate a direct contribution to LEED points and environmental objectives.
A common misperception in the industry is that dynamic glazing is too expensive for mainstream projects. The survey suggests that attitudes may be changing on this issue. Nearly 75 percent of architects were positive or neutral about the affordability of new technologies like dynamic glass, which is a significant departure from earlier industry perceptions (with one in five architects agreeing or strongly agreeing that dynamic glass is affordable compared to other traditional solar control options).
One reason for this attitude shift: dynamic glazing, such as SageGlass®, costs the same or less than conventional systems when architects consider the total solution cost. Traditional methods of controlling sunlight quickly add up. With traditional sun controls, architects need to budget for shades/blinds (plus installation and maintenance), exterior sunshades (plus transport and installation), larger HVAC systems, increased energy usage, lighting and peak demand electricity charges.
Dynamic glass is cost competitive as the architect and glazier need only budget for the glazing, period. In some ways it almost parallels the idea of a smart phone, which now serves as a camera, calendar, email provider, laptop and phone in one. With dynamic glass, you do not need additional sun control devices that would have been essential only a few years ago.