Integrating Dynamic Glass into Building Management Systems

By Katie Brown

Dynamic glazing hasn’t been around as long as traditional glazing products, but in its short existence, it has already changed the glass game. Dynamic glass is able to control window tint automatically and electronically. This reduces glare inside, and can make homes and workspaces more comfortable, while also reducing energy costs.

Taking that a step further, these glazing products are now being integrated into building management systems (BMS), completing the evolvement of the way building owners can control their glass. Companies are putting dynamic glass into windows that are controlled simply by an app, or in some cases, by voice control. This combination is reducing hassle and creating convenience.

Big Picture Changes

The incorporation of glass into a BMS is something that can help make the job of the building owner easier. All of the building features are incorporated into one place where the owner can control everything from air conditioning, and heating to dynamic glass. The visible light transmittance is managed according to preset conditions, or based on the building owner’s preference. Paul Nagel, senior vice president of product development from Kinestral, explains that BMS allows all building operations to come together under one cloud-based system. His company’s Halio dynamic glass, for ex-ample, can be incorporated into a BMS through cloud connectivity.

Ryan Park, the global head of marketing and product management with Saint-Gobain SageGlass, says the demand for connectivity has driven the growth and interest in internet of things (IoT) technologies into both homes and businesses. It is this constant connectivity, he says , that’s driven companies to connect traditionally non-connected elements, such as glass in windows.

“IoT now plays a role in building management and occupant experience. Major building management and controls manufacturers are moving toward more connectivity,” says Park. “We hear about and see connected HVAC, lighting and access control systems. In addition, there is a trend and focus on making the occupant experience better to drive building use as more of a profit center versus cost center.”

Park suggests that the integration of dynamic glass into the BMS will save businesses money over time. This connectivity increases convenience, but also increases efficiency.

Deepak Shivaprasad, senior director of product marketing at View Inc., notes that dynamic glass is becoming mainstream, which is prompting his company to try and stay ahead of the curve with integration into intelligent buildings, along with BMS.

“View Dynamic Glass works completely autonomously using cutting edge machine learning and 3D modelling, but the ability to take control and monitor when desired is still present for some building owners,” says Shivaprasad. “Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet) abilities mean that dynamic glass can work with almost any BMS system so that customers have more options to integrate with their systems.”

Anthony Branscum, vice president of architectural sales for Innovative Glass Corp., says this automation is one of the biggest changes in connectivity.

“When you are able to control the light and heat entering a building the way dynamic glass can through automation, it allows the architect and design teams to design and specify differently. As the designer, you don’t have to worry as much about having more glass on the western and southern facing walls of the building. As the sun gains in intensity at these facings, the automated systems in use will automatically dim the glass, blocking out unwanted heat gain and glare,” he says.

Tech Control

Dynamic glass has always been con-trolled by either an app or a control center, but with its integration into BMS, it puts all building functions into one place. Occupants can potentially control all electric aspects of their home, including dynamic glass, from one convenient control center.

There are different ways each company connects their dynamic glass to the BMS. According to Nagel, dynamic glass products, such as his company provides, connect through the cloud. Through this method, glass settings can be preset to meet certain conditions, or can be changed depending upon the owner’s preference, all through an app. Kinestral uses a program called Niagara that pairs the glass with each BMS. For the glass to work in harmony with the BMS, they each have to “speak” the same language. Niagara allows for the two systems to communicate.

Similarly, View can control dynamic glass through its predictive control algorithm called Intelligence. Occupants can control their glass through either a wall-mounted touch display or a mobile app.

Apps, however, aren’t the only way to control dynamic glass. Since SageGlass already had an app, the company decided its next step would be incorporating voice control.

“SageGlass chose the Amazon Echo as our first concept due to the development tools available,” says Park. “Using cloud services, we can allow the Amazon Echo to have ‘skills’ that change the tint of SageGlass. Voice controls in the commercial space will likely go beyond a single device in the room, as it becomes more integrated in other building systems. This is just the beginning.”

Inside Benefits

Convenience triumphs as the number one benefit when it comes to the incorporation of dynamic glass into BMS. Aside from that, however, there are many other perks for both the building owner and occupant. Nagel prioritizes employee productivity above energy efficiency; if employees are to get work done, then they need to be comfortable. He says Halio allows building owners to preset office conditions with a little leniency. This gives the occupant some control, while still staying within the parameters allowed by the building owner, which helps save on energy costs.

Shivaprasad notes that optimizing convenience means giving occupants and owners multiple ways to control their glass.

“It can be valuable for a building owner to have multiple ways to control and monitor the glass,” he says.

“It is all about giving building managers and occupants as much choice as possible so they can customize their experience to their needs.”

SageGlass is also experiencing the convenience of this integration first hand. Park says Amazon Echo has been integrated into their headquarters, giving the staff the power to control their work environment.

The benefits also extend beyond the office. Park says hospitals and health care centers are also application examples.

“In health care, voice can empower patients who are normally feeling like they are in a helpless position with all the doctors and staff attending to physical challenges. With the use of voice to control SageGlass in their hospital room, they have the power to manage how much light comes into their room, which has a positive impact on healing and the overall stay experience. More broadly, the use of voice in the health-care space can help staff be more efficient,” explains Park.

Branscum says synchronization is one of the benefits that adds to convenience.

“The ability to have the dynamic glass work in conjunction with the HVAC and lighting in the building makes a huge difference to the building owner,” he says. “Not having to figure out the best time to tint or not tint the glass or turn up or down the heat or AC in the building makes life simpler for the building owner, and makes the building operate more efficiently.”

Given these innovative product changes, there will also be some considerations when it comes to installation. Nagel says his company underwent extensive testing when developing Halio. This is where the Niagara system comes into play for Kinestral. Niagara allows the Halio system and the BMS to work together seamlessly, ensuring no hiccups during installation or use, even through technology updates.

With such updates, systems need to be able to adjust to the changes.

“How do you ensure technology (is current) when the business changes so much?” asks Nagel, explaining there needs to be room in the technology for software updates. This allows the BMS to continue working through changes.

Challenges and Changes

As for installation, it isn’t as difficult as one might think. Kinestral, for example, has developed an app for installers to use to make sure the dynamic glass is going in correctly. Installers scan the bar code on the app, which will then make sure everything is installed correctly.

SageGlass is also keeping the installation simple, working through the IoT connection.

“Being an IoT connectable system has not changed the way SageGlass is installed by our glazing partners, who work hand in hand with electricians and our architectural solutions team … it’s always a fun moment when those who witness the first power up are wowed by the fact that glass can be so dynamic and take on multiple personalities through automatic tinting,” says Park.

Park goes on to say that installation of his company’s dynamic glass products is similar to other glazing units.

“… Glaziers leave the small wire connection from each unit exposed, and the electrician takes over from there, wiring as if they would for wall switches, lighting or electrical outlets,” he says, explaining that SageGlass units are then wired to the control panel, which is then connected to the BMS, per the customer’s preference.

View uses a similar method of installation that also makes the electrician’s and installer’s job easy.

“The only difference in dynamic glass installation for a glazier is routing a pigtail during the glazing process that the low-voltage electrician can access at a later point. Our field team helps to train project teams and facilitate successful installations,” says Shivaprasad.

So what could be next? According to Nagel, there could possibly be systems that anticipate the occupant’s needs. For example, dynamic glass units could analyze what the occupant has been asking for, and then tailor the transmittance to those demands ahead of time. With cloud connectivity growing every day, systems will inevitably be safer, faster and more efficient.

The next big thing for Sage is right around the corner, as the company recently announced the release of Sage-Glass Harmony.

Scheduled to be unveiled for the first time at glasstec in Düsseldorf, Germany, “Harmony is a totally unique glazing solution for building owners and designers seeking to enhance the occupant experience by maximizing visual and thermal comfort. Unlike other solar management solutions that compromise aesthetics and impede views, Harmony dynamic glass provides daylight, heat and glare management while maintaining a natural and seamless connection to the outdoors,” explains Park. “All versions of SageGlass dynamic glazing tints block heat and glare. However, in many instances an entire lite of glass does not need to tint to block the source of heat and glare. SageGlass LightZone allows for in-pane variable transmittance to address this. LightZone has defined lines between tinted and clear areas of the glass. Harmony eliminates the defined lines and replaces them with a gradual in-pane tint transition from fully clear to fully tinted. The result is a glazing which affords a more seamless connection with the outdoors while still providing the daylight, color rendering, heat and glare control delivered by LightZone.”

Given such a constant evolution, it looks like the sky’s the limit for the future possibilities in dynamic glass products.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.