A View of the Future of Glass at GreenBuild 2012
Green building materials companies, such as the rechristened View, Inc. (formerly Soladigm), have descended on San Francisco this week for a week of sales pitches and product launches at one of the most important annual sustainable building expos in the U.S. Walking through the exhibit halls of GreenBuild 2012 yesterday at San Francisco’s Moscone Center was exhausting. Among the large companies such as Carrier, Kohler, Home Depot and United Technologies were hundreds of companies touting an endless variety of green building materials and services. Cork surfaces, recycled rubber flooring, soy insulation and bamboo paneling made for fun LEED window shopping but after a while the cavernous spaces at Moscone North, South and West left me spent.
Speaking of windows, View, Inc., which changed its name from Soladigm earlier this week, is one of those companies pitching a sustainable an exciting future in architecture and design. The venture-capital backed Silicon Valley company, a manufacturer of “dynamic glass,” is touting its futuristic material through today’s conclusion at GreenBuild.
Anyone who has worked in a glass and steel building knows that even the best architectural design does not mean much to the worker bees subjected inside to glare and heat if the sun hits their section of the building in the wrong way. To that end, over several years View has developed a glass material that the company claims can not only reduce that annoying glare but also reduce climate control, among other costs, for builders and their tenants.
View’s glass is coated in in a layer of nano fibers that in turn can adjust its tint automatically, or manually via a device such as an iPhone app, to keep out the sun during warm weather and to allow more natural light and heat during colder months. In plain English, View’s “intelligent glass” works the same way transition eyeglass lens function. According to View’s Vice President of Sales Erich Klawuhn, the results for builders who incorporate the company’s glass within their buildings score immediate benefits. A space using View’s glass can decrease energy consumption on average 20 to 25 percent due to peak load reduction; find additional savings due to HVAC and other climate control systems that require smaller capacity; and can also save money by eliminating the need for window treatments such as blinds by darkening its glass as needed. View manufactures its windows outside of Memphis in Olive Branch, Mississippi at a newly built factory that employs 150 workers. In addition to its VC funding the company also has GE as an investor; the state of Mississippi provided financial incentives as well. For customers, Klawuhn and his team can suggest a broad range of payback time–anywhere from immediately to up to 10 years depending on the design and size of a project.
So far View can point to two sizable clients. The W Hotel in San Francisco’s SOMA district revealed the company’s dynamic glass in its lobby and lounge areas. Enterprise software giant SAP’s headquarters in Palo Alto has a large skylight over its employee cafeteria that includes about 50 of View’s dynamic glass panes. Whether more architects and developers follow the W Hotel’s and SAP’s lead remains to be seen; like many young companies at GreenBuild, View offers many promises about its products and has a ways to go before it offers a strong record of performance. The future of a mundane substance such as glass, however, is an exciting one; View has immense potential because of the way it melds semiconductor and nano technologies with glass, one of the oldest building materials around.
Image credit: Leon Kaye