MD Viewpoint – Whizzy Techie Glass Stuff

Danny WilliamsI have read about the US company SageGlass who are showing their new electronically tinting glass at The FIT Show. So determined are they that we Brits should adopt what is admittedly an impressive product, they are replacing the whole of one end of one of the exhibition halls with their glass, to provide a real live permanent demo.

The product is called Lightzone™ and no less 314 metres2 of the product will be installed which can be tinted electronically using a smartphone app, which I think is pretty cool. Apparently you can create up to three variable tint zones within a single pane of glass, which the US website says is ‘ideal for windows, skylights and curtain walls’ whereas I think it would be a corker for connie roofs…and actually all of the glass in a conservatory. Now that would get the juices going.

Of course, it all depends upon the cost: Tintable glass is not new as such – Saint-Gobain (SageGlass is a member of the Saint-Gobain Group) had something like this in their London showroom some time ago. Apparently they had it installed in the loo door and one of their jolly japes was to make it transparent when an oppo was in there relieving themselves. I also remember someone telling me about an Arab prince who had such a product – not sure if it was the same – installed in the windows of his pool house at his pad in The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead to protect the dignity of the ladyfolk in his family. He was obviously concerned enough to shell out around a grand a metre for the stuff so I hope he thought it worthwhile.

The new stuff promises to be substantially cheaper than that and I hope so because the opportunities for sticking some of that into conservatories is exciting to say the least; I look forward to seeing it in action.


Lock tech…

All of which leads me to consider what other technological miracles should work for us in a market in which the ‘t’ word is remarkably absent…

I waxed lyrical back in the day about ‘central locking’ for houses, something that that has been available for some time but which has, to the best of my knowledge, been met with a lukewarm response, despite several attempts to bring it into the market. I find that odd, bearing in mind that the concept of pushing a button to unlock the doors of cars is hardly earthshattering and actually, is regarded as a necessity these days.

There are some big brands out there getting behind keyless locking including clever integration with alarm systems and CCTV. And yet a scan through the websites of a number of manufacturers would suggest that there is little enthusiasm for such products. One of the big brands is putting some weight behind it so now perhaps it will gather momentum. Either way, mechanical locks have not changed in principle since the Egyptians invented them 6,000 years ago, so we are due for a bit of a change…


Solar Tech…

I was intrigued to hear something about the by possibility of windows that generate electricity through the incorporation of solar panels and whist there have been murmurings I have seen nothing concrete. So I looked and actually a company called ‘SolarWindow’ is waxing lyrical about being close to making a breakthrough, though it is difficult to pin down anything about a date for the launch.

The company is a development firm and listed on the OTCQB market in the US. So, no products commercially available yet but looking through the not inconsiderable hype the explanation for how SolarWindow works is:

‘SolarWindow™ coatings utilize an organic photovoltaic (OPV) solar array composed of ultra-small solar cells, fabricated using mostly hydrogen-carbon based substances. OPV cells are a third generation solar technology that convert light energy into electricity by the photoelectric effect. When interconnected in a grid-like arrangement, an array of these OPV cells increase the voltage potential and electrical current in a given area. The Company is developing a proprietary OPV solar coating to generate electricity on glass and flexible plastics, while remaining see-through.’

Products for all types of glazing are being developed with some exorbitant claims made, including a 12-month payback for a tall building glazed throughout with the product. But why not? We do know that we are close to this product or others like it coming to market but there is nothing concrete that I can put my mouse finger on. But imagine how this would revolutionise the window and especially conservatory market?

Solar PV put a lot of money into purveyor’s pockets before the disgraceful debacle of the feed in tariffs pretty much killed it overnight. Solar remains a good prospect with interest rates remaining so low but the faith has been shattered so that particular gravy train has come to an end. But imagine for a moment if – when? – Solar PV windows become a reality, that they are reasonably priced and effective…well, I am having to do my deep breathing exercises to calm myself just at the thought!

As one that has been heavily involved with commercial solar and continuing to make my way in the sometimes weary world of windows, doors and connies, the prospect of combining the two causes me to come over all tingly.

But let’s calm ourselves for now…perhaps my enthusiastic reader knows something that I don’t. Please don’t keep it to yourself: I will happily pass on any information you may have after, of course, I have had first dibs at it myself.

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