Feature Article

Is Using Smart Glass Smart?

Electrochromic glazing holds the promise of less glare and better energy efficiency with fewer attachments. The reality is much more complicated.

Skylight use of electrochromic glass.

Spark Therapeutics research lab and office uses smart glass in its skylight.

Photo: Jacobs; Jeffrey Totaro, 2021
The sun streaming into our buildings can be both a benefit and a nuisance. Controlling its glare and solar heat gain in order to maximize energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and views to the outdoors is difficult. In commercial offices and all-glass buildings, the impacts are multiplied. Low-e glazing and exterior or interior shading systems are most often used to manage daylight, but there is another option—electrochromic glazing, sometimes called smart glass, switchable glass, dynamic glazing, and other names (in this report, we’re going to call it “smart glass” and are not covering thermochromic and other light-blocking glazing technologies).

With smart glass, you can make windows clear or tinted on demand, offering the promise of better comfort and significant energy savings without blinds or louvers obscuring the view. But early versions of the technology had one big problem; the color of the light through the glass was … ugly. It was yellow when “clear” and dark blue in the tinted stage. For many architects, the color was a nonstarter.

Smart glass has improved and now has better color quality than it once did, with some manufacturers offering gray tints that are closer to natural light. But have the products improved enough to be used in your next project? Let’s take a look at the history, technology, and advancements that have been made in smart glass.

Published April 4, 2022

Ehrlich, B. (2022, March 18). Is Using Smart Glass Smart?. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/using-smart-glass-smart