Sage builds a bright outlook for smart glass

One of the best-backed players in the smart glass industry, Sage Electrochromics Inc., is making some of its first deliveries from the world's largest electrochromic glazing plant, one capable of producing up to 4 million square feet of glass annually.

The technology produced there, called SageGlass, comes with a coating that can be tinted electronically according to lighting levels, controlling solar glare and heat gain, in turn cutting energy costs. The technology is backed by more than 250 patents and could play a role as part of smart building applications aimed at improving efficiency and conserving electricity and water.

Just as important as the volume of glass that this particular plant can produce is the size of individual panels that can be manufactured at the new $150 million, 324,000-square-foot facility in Faribault, Minn.

The panes are now available in sizes up to 5 feet by 10 feet, which greatly expands the design and architectural applications that are possible, making them much more commercially viable for curtain walls, skylights and windows.

Panel sizes have held back dynamic glass adoption, but advances such as the ones SAGE made this year are prompting some architects to reconsider this material, which slowly has developed a following over the past decade, said Randall Vaughn, chairman-president for GNF Architects and Engineers, based in Lexington, Ky.

"When you look at the maintenance and long-term usability, and the fact that [the glass] allows you to main aesthetics, it just makes sense to consider it," he said.

While GNF hasn't used Sage's technology often, it installed approximately 4,800 square feet in a curtain-wall façade at a LEED Gold-certified Siemens manufacturing plant in Hutchison, Kan. The western orientation chosen for the building was challenging, but the glass enabled the engineers to reduce the summer cooling load while avoiding the maintenance gripes of mechanized blinds, he said.

Brightening view on smart glass

John Van Dine, founder and CEO of Sage, which was acquired last year by French buildings giant Saint-Gobain, believes dynamic glass will become far more commonplace in the next three to five years because it is recognized under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program.

Next page: Savings through smart glass

Images courtesy of Sage, Jeffrey Totaro Photography.