Commissioning look-ahead: blindless windows in buildings

Credit: Eric Sahlin PhotographyIn some states, it is illegal to tint car windows beyond a certain darkness level. Fortunately, there aren’t corresponding laws about windows in buildings.

That’s because windows that tint themselves electronically when the weather or interior temperatures call for it are at the center of an ongoing $280 million “green intelligent building” initiative at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif.

The SageGlass windows, made by SAGE Electrochromics, are being used in the atrium of the new Community and Student Services Center along with an ambitious ductless environmental system, says Gabrielle Blackman, a principal designer at architectural firm tBP Architecture, which was in charge of the project.

Credit: Eric Sahlin PhotographyThe atrium runs east to west with the sun, so it captures the most light possible. The building features radiant heating and cooling, which is contained within the atrium’s floor, replacing traditional forced air heating and cooling. “Air Scoops” on the roof and ceiling help provide natural ventilation.

Blackman says that the SageGlass windows can shade the room automatically within a matter of minutes. “The tinting graduates, but you can still see in and out of the building,” she says. “You let the building work for you.” 

This feature allowed the college to save money on extra shading technology. Blackman firmly believes that this sort of approach will be embraced more readily by commercial building owners in coming years.