Expect the Unexpected

May 6, 2002
The Future of Glazing Technology
By Linda K. MonroeChicago-based Republic Windows & Doors stands out as a company whose innovations reach beyond its product development and into the company’s philosophy and day-to-day operations.For example, the front entry of Republic’s award-winning manufacturing facility (pictured) is constructed using 10,000 square feet of Heat Mirror™ glass. Heat Mirror is a clear, silver-coated polyester film suspended between panes of glass for dramatically improved insulation performance. Had the company not used Heat Mirror, a larger HVAC system would have been required to keep the building comfortable in the summer heat or winter cold. In fact, all windows in Republic’s 375,000-square-foot facility were installed with either Heat Mirror or LoE2 glass.What’s unique about Republic is that it offers three different levels of Heat Mirror glass, including its trademarked SmaRt-10®. Says Jon Neely, director of Technical Services at Republic, “SmaRt-10 has one of the highest R-values in the industry and performs up to 250-percent better than standard Low-E. We’ve taken the position that if we’re going to offer Heat Mirror, let’s do so at the highest quality and with a competitive price attached.” In addition to the energy savings, SmaRt-10 reduces condensation 20-percent better and reduces noise transmission 25-percent better than standard Low-E.Beyond refining the manufacturing processes and re-engineering designs to continually improve its energy-efficient products, Republic is also setting its sights on technology for the future. Neely and his Republic colleagues just returned from Fensterbau, the annual European window show, and he gives Buildings’ readers a peek at what’s coming online in the near term.“The biggest thing out there, from a commercial buildings perspective, is ‘smart glass,’” he says. “Although the technology has been around a while, it’s never been perfected.” Neely notes that smart glass incorporates a coating impregnated into the glass surface, which, when an electrical charge is added, will change its molecular structure from clear to opaque or to a tint in between – and back. “Smart glass has a tremendous opportunity in all-glass buildings, retail storefronts, etc.,” notes Neely, adding that the earlier technology didn’t return the glass to its normal state easily or effectively. He anticipates it will be another year before smart glass becomes readily available, due, in part, to the customization necessary for each unique installation and the proper electrical charge and associated sensors.Neely adds that the exhibition continued to showcase the broad array of colored glass (especially enticing to the design community), as well as a wide variety of broadly defined self-cleaning glass – running the gamut from a coating that bonds to the surface of an after-insulated product to make the glass easier to clean, to an impregnated glass whose photocatalytic reaction when hit by light actually loosens the bond between dirt and a glass surface.Security laminates and films were also high on attendees’ need-to-see lists, but Neely adds a caveat of caution. “In standard American window designs, the glass far exceeds the performance values of the window design itself,” he explains. “For a real evolution to occur, customers will need to demand a higher security product – one that will include bigger profiles, heavier extrusions, different composite materials, and more substantial and robust hardware systems. Frankly, we hope it goes that way.”Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

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