The Greenbuild 2013 Conference in Philadelphia this month was a great success for the green building industry, as well as for SageGlass, a sustainable, architectural-enabling product. More than ever, it feels like all systems are “go” for green building.
This was my 3rd consecutive Greenbuild (Toronto, San Francisco, Philly), and it feels like the momentum continues to grow. In fact, perhaps the greatest testament to the success of the show is that “green building” is really becoming the accepted norm, or baseline, in the industry. The USGBC should be proud that their movement continues to be co-opted by the mainstream construction industry – and that soon it may not be thought of as a movement at all. Sustainable building practices and optimizing energy and daylight will simply be the way every project is designed and built.
We are pleased to contribute to this effort. Our product, SageGlass, is electronically tintable dynamic glass that maximizes daylight and outdoor views in buildings while controlling glare and heat gain. The glass can darken or clear manually or automatically to save energy and help keep building occupants continuously comfortable. So our product fits perfectly into the Greenbuild concept of a “revolutionary” energy-saving and sustainable innovation for solar control.
While electrochromic glass like SageGlass is still a relatively small segment within the context of the $100 billion global flat glass market, we are seeing interest and awareness surge. Even compared to two years ago in Toronto, it is amazing to see how many more architects are aware of electronically tintable glass and how many of them are seeking us out for potential projects. We are continually innovating to ensure that our product meets the high standards of the architectural and glazing community. For example, at Greenbuild 2013 we announced a new wireless initiative (SageGlass Simplicity™), demonstrated the ability to independently tint three zones within one pane of glass (SageGlass LightZone™), and announced an improvement in our dynamic range to achieve 1% visual light transmission (VLT).
These innovations follow on the heels of our other successes in 2013. These included the ramp-up of our new 320,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the appointment of a new CEO (to fill the shoes of John Van Dine – the founder of SageGlass and pioneer of electrochromic glass for commercial buildings), and the celebration of our 10th anniversary of shipping our first project. That’s right – even though some may think of SageGlass as a new product, we have actually been installing projects for 10 years. Now, hundreds of projects later, we are seeing a tipping point of accelerating momentum. Analysts such as Navigant Research have predicted a $900 million market for dynamic glass by 2020. This might have seemed like a crazy dream when we shipped our first project in 2003 (other than to founder Van Dine perhaps). It doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.
Here is a quick recap of some of our key initiatives at the Greenbuild show.
SageGlass Simplicity™ is a new, solar-powered wireless version of SageGlass®, the leading electrochromic glazing solution in the commercial market. SageGlass Simplicity offers architects and building owners even greater flexibility in how they incorporate dynamic glass into their building designs. While traditional dynamic glass is powered by a low-voltage wired connection, SageGlass Simplicity requires no electrical wiring. A thin strip of solar photovoltaics at the bottom, or on the side, of each pane provides sufficient power to control SageGlass tinting throughout the day. A low-profile electronic controller and battery provide a wireless communication interface and back-up power for up to two days if necessary.
SageGlass Simplicity is a flexible alternative for projects in which access to a building’s electrical wiring is impractical, such as hard-to-reach skylights or clerestory windows. It is also a great solution for retrofit projects or “one-off” installations for offices where a minimal number of dynamic glass windows are needed to solve a solar control problem (such as a conference room or screening room). Architects have often asked us for the flexibility of a wireless system for certain applications. We heard you.
Triple in-pane zoning
SageGlass LightZone™ is the world’s first dynamic glass window system that enables variable tint zones within a single pane of glass. SageGlass LightZone allows building occupants to change the tint in three discrete sections in one pane of SageGlass, and each section can be set to any available tint level. This variability provides for even greater flexibility in managing solar heat gain and glare. With multiple zones in a single window, factors such as the changing angles of the sun throughout the day and seasons can be better managed to optimize daylight and preserve the outdoor view. This feature was very well received at Greenbuild and was viewed as a significant differentiator for SageGlass in the market.
Enhanced Glare Control
SageGlass has also further enhanced its glare control capabilities. In its fully tinted state, the glazing is now able to achieve 1% visible light transmission (versus 2% previously). While a 1% point change may not seem like much, each incremental percentage point has a significant impact on glare control. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) that was commissioned by the California Energy Commission regarding human visual comfort has shown that dynamic glazing with 3% transmission is not sufficient to control window glare. The study found that with electrochromic glazing tinted to 3%, almost one-quarter of building occupants still had to lower interior blinds to achieve sufficient glare control. Further, the majority of participants reported that they would have been more satisfied if the windows tinted more. The report states that a low transmittance level of 1% or less “would reduce or eliminate the dependence on interior sun-blocking shades.” Importantly, even when fully tinted, SageGlass always remains transparent so building occupants never lose their view and connection to the outdoors. Maintaining the view outdoors has been an important goal for architects and building owners in virtually every project we have installed.
We are more excited for the future than ever due to the enormous groundswell of interest in SageGlass at the show. As I walked the show floor, I was impressed (and amazed) at the options architects and builders have today. In the old days (like 2003 J), an architect may have needed to make a major trade-off between an aesthetically pleasing design and a sustainable LEED building. No longer. Today you can truly almost have it all. And we won’t stop innovating or improving. I can only imagine what Greenbuild 2020 will have in store. Let’s go.