Volume 48, Issue 2- February 2013
Dynamic Glazing Move into the Mainstream in 2013?
The question has been an annual refrain: is this the year dynamic glazing becomes accepted in the building materials arena? Some say 2013 may just be that year.
“I firmly believe this is the year that it is going to begin to go mainstream,” says Rao Mulpuri, CEO of View (formerly Soladigm) in Milpitas, Calilf. “We are seeing that approval from the market and I think as you look back a year from now you’ll see a sprinkling of projects all around and then those will spark more interest and demand.”
Curtis Liposcak, president of Pleotint in Jenison, Mich., offers a more tempered answer. “I suppose it might depend on what type of dynamic glazing,” Liposcak says. “There are different types. The more expensive types I would say no, the less expensive types I would say there’s a possibility, yes.”
Both agree that market conditions have changed, making the use of advanced glazing products on projects more likely in the year ahead.
“When we talk about dynamic glass to the architects, to builders, to building owners, I have not come across one that says ‘I don’t like the concept of dynamically tinting glass.’ Everyone immediately says: ‘I love it. How come this hasn’t been done already?’ It’s one of those things that’s so obvious, but the fundamental reason this hasn’t been done so far is technology hasn’t been available to bring it to mainstream,” Mulpuri says.
Mulpuri gives two reasons for why this year might finally bear the fruit of these dynamic glazing companies’ labor.
“Part one is the product itself,” he says. That means having the “right characteristics” in terms of performance, looks, its range of tinting in terms of being able to block glare and heat. That also means having the ability to make the product in sizes that are standard for a normal window unit and ensuring the finished unit has the durability to withstand heat and UV rays. And, this product has to be wrapped into a cost-effective package.
Part two is related to that cost. “Simply, do you have the high-volume manufacturing facility that can take the demand and supply glass to the marketplace?” Mulpuri says.
“Volume obviously drives down price, everyone knows that, so this is your dilemma,” Liposcak adds. “You’ve got to get the volume to get to the lower price, you don’t have the lower price until you get the volume. That is where the struggle comes.”
Liposcak notes that Pleotint is reducing the price of its switchable glazing product by 20 percent this year to address the cost dilemma. “If our price is lower, we hope that trickles through the supply chain,” he says.
Both manufacturing executives agree that the long process of development to market is not unusual for any start-up, but that it could be paying dividends for dynamic glazing in the year ahead.
“Introducing a new product into the building material space is not easy,” Mulpuri says. “Fundamentally, the industry is risk-adverse, as it should be, because you are dealing with serious things and in the case of glass it is what separates you from the elements.”
“It’s a risk-adverse industry and it’s a new technology,” Liposcak agrees. “If you look back over some of the other new technologies that have been introduced into the world of glass, such as soft coat low-Es, that probably took about ten years for good market acceptance … Here’s a brand new technology for the world of glass, and people are going to put their toes in the water before they jump in.”
Mulpuri points out that broadening the design community’s awareness of what dynamic glazing can bring to a project, and letting them know that their partner has solid experience in such projects, will be a key factor this year in getting the product specified into projects on a regular basis.
Still, players in the glass industry that have rallied behind this technology are expecting big things in 2013.
“Already we believe that it’s going to be in the mainstream and that’s not just us saying it. That’s the feedback that we’re getting from the marketplace,” Mulpuri says.