Seeing the Lite

Breaking down barriers to large-scale specifications of dynamic glass

Seeing the Lite

Not all technologies are welcomed in the world of building facades. This is especially true with expensive and unproven innovations. Early adopters are willing to take a chance and, with time, these barriers can begin to fade away. That’s been the case for dynamic glass products, which have grown in popularity in recent years due to several past barriers beginning to break down.

Slow to Change

The architectural community was slow to warm up to dynamic glass for a number of reasons. Craig Henricksen, vice president of product and marketing at Kinestral Technologies Inc. in Hayward, Calif., says durability was a major reason developers hesitated to embrace dynamic glass.

“The product can be proven but will the company be viable in ten to 20 years? For developers it’s very much a trust game. If the glass breaks ten years down the road will they be able to get a replacement? Practical things like that were a concern,” he says.

Henricksen adds that Kinestral, which produces Halio smart-tinting glass, partnered with AGC Glass early on to give the company additional resources. He says this helped the company in regard to trust as it entered the market and began to speak with big developers.

“People in the market are just now starting to feel that subside a little bit. As more buildings adopt dynamic glass the fear is diminishing,” says Henricksen. “That’s why we’re starting to see an uptick in adoption and excitement.”

According to Jordan Doria, senior channel marketing manager for Sage-Glass in Fairbault, Minn., lack of either market awareness or a long-term track record of success prevented the technology from gaining traction at first. Dynamic glass was used in smaller pilot applications before being specified for commercial projects. Now, Doria says, the company is seeing repeat customers as confidence in the technology grows.

Changing Perceptions

View In.c, based in Milpitas, Calif., with its manufacturing facility in Olive Branch, Miss., is actively working to gain the building industry’s trust. View Inc. North America president Guthrie Cox says the company invites interested parties to tour the manufacturing facility so they can meet the team and understand the company’s quality procedures.

There’s another mindset that needs to change for people to want to adopt dynamic glass technology, according to Doria, who adds that his company has been working to break down traditional thought.

“Comparing dynamic glass to the glass we’ve known for years really doesn’t work. We need to get people to understand that it’s not just glass, but a smart glass solution that takes the place of blinds and shades and contributes to energy management,” he says. “It’s a living part of the building. We’re getting people to reframe their thinking about this new solution in the building space but that doesn’t happen overnight.”

The growing focus on energy performance and sustainability targets, whether LEED platinum, net-zero or Passive House, has opened doors for dynamic glass products. Many of these targets come with a tradeoff in the amount of glass that can be used.

“Designers and occupants don’t want to minimize glass and reduce daylight. They’re realizing that those targets are achievable without sacrificing daylight but only with dynamic glass,” says Doria.

Henricksen also believes that sustainability is driving the adoption of dynamic glass. He says that stakeholders are beginning to look at the building as a fully integrated system, focusing on how each part interacts with each other.

“Companies are leading the charge with the next generation of Class A buildings. They are doing this almost out of necessity,” says Henricksen. “If you look at owner-occupied buildings, such as the Facebooks and Microsofts of the world, they are being asked by their employees to do better in terms of energy efficiency. It’s a changing dynamic and the industry is starting to look at how to make better buildings up front.”

Dynamic glazing can also be paired with other glazing products to increase energy efficiency. According to Henricksen, Halio can be paired with low-E coatings or vacuum sealing. It could even be used as part of an insulating glass unit.

While Doria believes that dynamic glass is a premium technology, he says that people often think it’s much more expensive than it really is until they are given a cost range.