Kennovations heliostats at One Central Park condominium by Jean Nouvel
Simon Wood Photography Kennovations heliostats at One Central Park condominium by Jean Nouvel

Programmable Heliostats
Capability: Directing natural light inside
Manufacturers: Kennovations, Heliotrack
The One Central Park condominium by Jean Nouvel, Hon. FAIA, uses Kennovations heliostats—movable mirrors—with Device Logic controls to bounce sunlight from a roof to an adjacent building, and then into an atrium. The technology’s positioning and light intensity are “very adjustable and programmable,” says Nouvel partner Bertram Beissel von Gynmnich.

Homeostatic Façade by Decker Yeadon
Courtesy Decker Yeadon Homeostatic Façade by Decker Yeadon

Dynamic  Façade
Capability: Regulating heat gain
Designer: Decker Yeadon
Biological homeostasis—the ability to regulate internal conditions with kinetic movement (think goosebumps)—inspired the Homeostatic Façade by Decker Yeadon, in New York. The experimental, double-skin system sandwiches silver-coated elastomers that expand and contract in response to interior conditions. Shading can be localized to specific interior zones.

Living Glass by The Living in collaboration with Columbia University's GSAPP
Courtesy The Living Living Glass by The Living in collaboration with Columbia University's GSAPP

Breathing Fenestrations
Capability: Regulating air changes
Designer: The Living in collaboration with Columbia University’s GSAPP
Through sensors embedded in Living Glass transparent silicone surface, the surface opens and closes like gills in response to metrics such as carbon dioxide levels. “The movement itself becomes information and starts to communicate to the people in the room,” says David Benjamin of The Living, in New York.

BioPCM by Phase Change Energy Solutions
Courtesy Phase Change Energy Solutions BioPCM by Phase Change Energy Solutions

Phase-Changing Insulation
Capability: Regulating temperature through a material’s physical properties
Manufacturers: Phase Change Energy Solutions (PCES), BASF, National Gypsum
For two Seattle projects, ZGF Architects used PCES’s BioPCM to supplement other insulation. “It melts at a human comfort range—about 72 F—so it keeps the building within that range as long as possible as the temperature heats up,” says Ed Clark, ZGF’s sustainable strategist.

TX Active cement by Essroc Italcementi Group
Courtesy Essroc Italcementi Group TX Active cement by Essroc Italcementi Group

Photocatalytic Cement
Capability: Cleaning itself and the air
Manufacturers: Essroc Italcementi Group, HeidelbergCement
When exposed to UV light, Essroc’s TX Active cement contains a photocatalyst that accelerates the oxidation process in which electrons break down bacteria and VOCs into carbon dioxide and water molecules, allowing them to decompose and disburse from the cement. Essroc says that its product can also neutralize air pollutants.

SageGlass, an electrochromic glass
Courtesy Sage Electrochromics SageGlass, an electrochromic glass

Electrochromic Glass
Capability: Electrically charged coatings control glare and solar heat gain without sacrificing views
Manufacturers: Sage Electrochromics, View Inc.
The cost of electrochromic glass “has decreased over the last few years,” says Bethany Johnson, AIA, of SmithGroupJJR. The firm specified SageGlass (shown) for a Chicago project after energy models showed it would reduce the building’s cooling load one-third more than other shading options. In Transition
Five years ago, Johnson was frustrated that electrochromic glass panels couldn’t be manufactured “in sizes large enough to incorporate into most of our curtainwall systems.” Today, size is no longer an issue because the glass manufacturers have expanded their production facilities in response to architects’ demands. SageGlass by Sage Electrochromics and Dynamic Glass by View Inc., are now available in sizes up to 5 by 10 feet.

Advancements in controls are allowing designers to leverage electrochromic glass’ behavior with other building systems. Sage recently partnered with Lutron Electronics to create a lighting controls system that coordinates SageGlass’ operation with motorized shades and artificial lighting fixtures to maximize daylight and minimize electric illumination.

The technology behind electrochromic glass continues to advance and gain functionality. In August, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced the development of a window coating in which users can control solar heat gain and visible light transmittance independently. Current products on the market control these performance properties together.