Many people, especially those of us who work in offices, spend too much time indoors. One fix is to simply get outside more. Another is to offer cooped-up office workers views and light from outside. That’s part of the reason that architects nowadays tend to cover office buildings with glass.
The downside of giant banks of windows or glass walls, though, becomes obvious when the relentless afternoon sun makes the heat and stuffiness inside intolerable, requiring clammy and environment-damaging levels of air conditioning.
The makers of “smart glass” say they can address this problem. Smart-glass windows transform from transparent to opaque, and every shade in between, in seconds. They often rely on electrochromic thin films embedded in the glass.
The upshot: Less energy is needed to heat or cool a building. Shades and blinds become optional.
The Minnesota-based smart glass company Sage Electrochromics has already developed ways to vary the tint within one window—allowing the top third of a window to be heavily tinted, the middle somewhat tinted, and the bottom clear, for example. […]