Inside the sustainability impact of dynamic glass

Companies looking to improve their sustainability credits in every aspect of their business shouldn’t discount the impact of smart materials and products

The problem for many businesses seeking to reduce carbon emissions is that they have done many of the obvious measures, such as reducing energy usage, recycling where possible and eliminating waste. But there are still plenty of ways in which to go further, including thinking about how offices are designed and used.

One method is through the use of liquid crystal glazing, which can be deployed on both external and internal windows to help create the optimum conditions for people to work in. Solar shading glass, like that developed by eyrise, uses a transparent liquid crystal mixture which is placed between two glass sheets coated with a transparent conductive film.
When voltage is applied, the crystals change their orientation and a specific amount of light is transmitted, as requested by the user. This means workers can avoid having sun blazing in at the height of summer, reducing the need for air conditioning, while also being able to draw on its heat to warm the building in cooler conditions.

For those commissioning buildings, such as architects or landlords, such technology can help comply them with a wide range of environmental standards and certification including the Swiss National Sustainable Construction standard, the German DGNB certification, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Well certification, the French HQE accreditation and the Estidama standard in the UAE.

The winners will be the companies that have the courage to embrace new technology. This is the future of sustainable offices

Such technology can also help create better workplace environments, where businesses and staff are more likely to want to work in a post-Covid environment. Research by Merck – the parent company of eyrise – suggests an employee working for a year with a liquid crystal window will take 0.7 days fewer in sick leave and gain 4.4 days in productivity.
Multiplied by hundreds of people, that can have quite an impact, and can help businesses hold on to talent they may otherwise risk losing in the great resignation. “We’ve seen the power in the battle for talent shift towards the employee, so employers need to create an office space which is nice to be in,” says Dr Celine Glipa, CEO of eyrise. Employees are now looking for a comfortable office space that is also environmentally friendly.”

For investors and landlords, offering such technology can help ensure they receive a premium rent from organisations, in what remains a fiercely competitive market, or a high sale price. “There’s always a shortage of suitable buildings that can demonstrate a high standard of sustainability,” says Glipa.

Swiss Prime Site Immobilien recently appointed eyrise to provide more than 3,000 m² of dynamic liquid crystal glazing for the external facade of its 15,000 m² Zurich building, which will eventually be occupied by Google Switzerland for a yearly rent of more than 10m Swiss Francs (just over £8m).

“Dynamic glass from eyrise combines certified, resource-saving properties with other advantages for us,” says Urs Baumann, chief investment officer of Swiss Prime Site. “The targeted control of the shading improves working conditions for tenants, which increases their wellbeing and should have a positive effect on productivity in the offices.”

Alongside the s350 solar shading glass, eyrise also offers the i350 privacy glazing, which can be used to transform glass partitions or internal windows into private areas. Just like the solar shading glass, it uses licrivision, a transparent liquid crystal mixture that is put between two glass sheets coated with a transparent conductive film. When voltage is applied, the crystals have the freedom to move between the glass panels and create a perfect orientation, resulting in high transparency. Without voltage, the crystals are in a random pattern that blurs the view.

This gives businesses the ability to transform areas that are either open-plan or breakout areas into private meeting rooms. From a sustainability perspective, this means better use of space, potentially reducing the need to take out larger premises or even to construct a new building entirely; something that creates significant amounts of carbon. Employees benefit from greater flexibility around the use of space and light, while landlords again can offer a better facility.

By rethinking how we design buildings and use our workplaces, it’s possible for investors, landlords, businesses and employees to play their part in helping to cut emissions and create more sustainable and pleasant working environments. “As innovators in this space, it’s clear the winners will be the companies that have the courage to embrace new technology,” says Glipa. “This is the future of sustainable offices.”

Sustainable design in action

When the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) looked to update its home at 195 Piccadilly building in London, it decided to implement instant solar shading technology for a newly created fourth floor.

Using eyrise’s liquid crystal technology, it installed 82 windows of different shapes and sizes to glaze two restored Victorian rooflights in what are now known as the Richard Attenborough Rooms.

Along with other improvements, the installation has helped the building – built in 1883 and home to Bafta since 1976 – achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of B.

“At the start of the project, our Victorian heritage building had old technology and original features which leaked heat, giving us a high EPC rating,” says Pauline Campbell, Bafta’s head of property. “Putting in a fully glazed roof was a challenge if we wanted to concentrate on sustainability.

She adds: “The new rooflight structures developed by eyrise can automatically adjust the shading of the glazing to reduce solar gain, resulting in a lower cooling requirement. This is controlled so that the solar gain can be limited when not needed but can also be actively allowed to heat the space when heating is required.” The project yielded a UK EPC rating of B48, comparable with that achieved by new builds.

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