What’s Your Glass IQ?

One of the more interesting developments in the building industry is that of Smart Glass architectural panels and windows designed to both reduce a building’s energy consumption and improve people’s comfort inside. How can windows affect both animate and inanimate objects? NASA wanted to learn the answer to that question for itself. The organization has installed smart glass windows and panels at the NASA Sustainability Base, Mountain View, CA, in a real-life lab experiment to test this technology’s impact on the built environment and human performance. Results will be measured over the long term.

Electro-chromic technology is one of the several types of smart glass on the market today. Electro-chromic windows contain multiple layers of glass through which an electrical charge is delivered that changes its opacity in reference to sunlight and solar heat. Once the change has occurred, no electricity is needed to maintain the “color” of the glass panels. The opacity controls the solar energy and heat. The result is a decrease in the amount of HVAC energy needed to cool the building. Conversely, in cooler times of the year, these controlled glass panels allow solar-warming to occur over broader areas of a building, reducing the need to artificially heat the space. Electro-chromic glass reduces a building’s energy consumption by an average of 20%.

These advancements in glass and building technologies allow building designers to incorporate larger expanses of architectural glass panels and windows, which improves inhabitants’ moods and morale because they have greater access to outside. This technology also allows for such interior applications as privacy screens and space dividers, all controllable from a mobile device. Electro-chromic glass provides a stronger connection between the built and natural environments in a way that benefits both building occupants and nature.