Also known as switchable glass, dynamic glass, smart-tinting glass, and light control glass (LCG), smart glass is a type of glass that alters the amount of light transmitted through typically transparent materials (like windows), allowing them to appear as transparent, translucent, or opaque based on external temperature or via remote control. Covered in a microscopic coating that connects to a computer chip, the glass can even be controlled by a mobile app.
With the ability to go from transparent to dark within seconds, smart glass is suitable for a variety of both residential and commercial uses, providing both privacy and cost-saving benefits. Additionally, smart glass can help combat climate change, as shared in this recent CBS News article. Because it automatically tints to regulate light and heat, it allows buildings to use less electricity for heating and cooling.
Already being used in hotels, hospitals, office buildings, apartments, and airports, smart glass has a number of benefits, including supporting the need for more sustainable building practices and technologies.
The Importance of Sustainable Buildings
Greenhouse gas emissions from buildings primarily arise from their consumption of fossil-fuel based energy, through both direct use and use of electricity which has been generated from fossil fuels. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), fossil-fuel combustion attributed to both residential and commercial buildings accounts for about 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
While tangible benefits of sustainable buildings may not be as easily recognizable to tenants or visitors, sustainable design, construction, and operations are critical and can help:
- Reduce carbon emissions, energy, and waste.
- Conserve water.
- Prioritize safer materials.
- Lower exposure to toxins.
Major opportunities to reduce emissions include increased incorporation of energy efficient practices and materials, such as “intelligent efficiency” technology like smart glass. In fact, the Department of Energy predicts smart glass can help reduce a building’s energy needs by about 20%. This is because smart glass improves energy efficiency by blocking UV and IR light and either reducing incoming heat or allowing more natural heat to pass through, lowering the need for heavy use of heating and cooling.
The Benefits of Smart Glass
Energy efficiency may be one of the largest benefits of smart glass because not only is it cost-efficient, but it also can help reduce the overall carbon footprint of buildings. There are other major benefits as well, such as:
- Increased comfort: Whether automatically or via remote control, smart glass can be made transparent, opaque, or shades in-between to offer privacy, protect against sunlight, block out heat, or keep heat in.
- Better security: Not only can smart glass be made opaque to keep others from being able to see inside, but it also has soundproofing properties that can offer increased privacy. This can be a huge benefit in retail environments, office meeting spaces, and even hospitals.
- Low maintenance: Smart glass can be easily cleaned using an IPA wipe on the affected area.
- Return on investment: Smart glass is expensive – up to 50% more than regular windows – but it also has the potential to save building owners 20% or more on energy costs. Short-term investment may be sizable, but the ROI reported back over time can cover the initial costs and more.
Smart glass is already being used in a variety of real-world settings, including:
- Office buildings: Smart glass is used for electronically switchable glass partitions and walls, transforming a space from open to private. This includes conference rooms, cubicles, or offices, and can help create either an open or private floor plan.
- Hotels: Smart glass is sometimes used to create privacy in bathrooms and spas but is also used for hotel windows to create a cozy atmosphere or ideal sleep space.
- Hospitals: Smart glass is eliminating the need for drapery and curtains as it is used as hospital room partitions. Not only does it isolate sound, creating an extra layer of security, but it also helps keep rooms more sanitary. Staff can also check on patients without having to enter a room and disturb them.
- Residential: Switchable glass windows and doors are slowly beginning to appear in residential homes and apartment buildings as occupants better understand the energy efficiency and cost savings associated with smart glass.
- Retail: Smart glass can help retailers take more advantage of their space, as these windows can be used for projection of advertising or remain transparent so people can see into the store. This decreases the need for TVs and print ads and collateral and increases the ability to create more targeted messaging.
- Automotive: Smart glass can allow for shading and temperature control in windows and sunroofs.
- Airports: San Francisco and Dallas Fort Worth International airports have already implemented smart glass in some areas of their terminals, keeping travelers cooler and more comfortable by blocking heat and sunlight from coming in windows.
The Future of Smart Glass Technology
The use of smart glass technology began in the early 2000s but is more recently becoming popular in industries like retail, healthcare, automotive, and even residential. Part of the reason for this growth is because of the versatility and quality of smart glass, while another is increased energy conservation awareness and focus.
In the future, consumers and business owners will likely see:
- Smart glass will become more accessible, and eventually be the standard for things such as commercial building windows.
- It will also likely become more popular in building interiors, such as for partitions or windows, allowing for both access to natural light and privacy.
- Smart glass will likely also expand into the design of other things, such as home appliances or other commercial goods.
Generally, we expect to see smart glass play a much larger role in sustainable building practices as the importance of reducing energy emissions and increasing efficiency continues to rise.
Contact Aeroseal for Commercial Glass Windows
Aeroseal is a leading provider of commercial glass solutions, both for corporate and residential buildings and storefront windows and doors. To learn more about commercial glass window solutions, contact Aeroseal online or call 1-888-380-2376.