Brilliant Views

Insights on glass and daylighting for the built environment

Dynamic glass in Passive House design


We are big fans of Passive House (aka PassivHaus), the tough energy performance standard that can cut a building’s energy requirements by up to 90%. We believe dynamic glass can play a crucial role in providing the well-regulated sun control that the Passive Houses standard requires.

A great example is the new award-winning Center for Design Research (CDR) building designed and built by the University of Kansas’ School of Architecture. It uses dynamic glass to achieve a sleek, energy-efficient curtain wall design while controlling the sun’s harmful effects. Electronically tintable dynamic glass enabled the KU team to construct a butt-glazed curtain wall that forms most of the CDR building’s south facade.

The stone-and-glass facility, which was designed and built by students, is a model of sustainability. It recently won an Acknowledgement Award in the prestigious 2011 Holcim Award for Energy Efficient projects in North America. The CDR was also designed to LEED Platinum standards, and is one of the first commercial buildings in North America to seek PassivHaus certification.

The CDR is located on a former farm in the school’s west campus and serves as a collaborative research facility for students and faculty. Its mission is to foster innovation in energy-efficient building design and small-scale energy technologies, as well as development of smart devices, systems and applications.

Studio 804 selected SageGlass dynamic glass for the project for both its design aesthetics and functionality, according to Dan Rockhill, a J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture and the project’s leader. “We wanted to create a taut exterior glass skin to emphasize the building’s stone construction and to fit in with the architectural vernacular of the other stone buildings on the farm,” Rockhill said. “SageGlass enabled us to achieve that design goal. It eliminated the need to install louvers to shade the south facade and prevent overheating. It also helped us achieve LEED points by reducing our artificial lighting requirements.”

In addition to preventing excessive heat gain and fading in warm seasons, the dynamic glass curtain wall fronts a 10-inch-thick (25.4-centimeter-thick) masonry Trombe wall which absorbs the sun’s rays to provide much of the building’s heat during the winter. The curtain wall changes tint automatically according to the sun’s position throughout the year using a GPS coordinated control system. Occupants can also change the glass tint on demand with the press of a button.

According to Rockhill, dynamic glass worked beautifully for the Passive House design concept. It was cost-effective too, eliminating the extra expenses of constructing, installing and maintaining exterior louvers.


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