Tag Archives: intelligent windows

‘Smart’ windows in Vancouver (Canada): engineering issues?

This post was going to focus on the first building in Canada to feature ‘smart’ windows. In this case, they are electrochromic windows and the company, View Dynamic Glass, was mentioned here in a September 17, 2018 posting about the windows’ use at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. (The posting includes a link to the View Dynamic Glass report on the windows’ use and a short video.)

However, things changed but, first, let’s start with an explanation as to what electrochromic glass ir. Chris Woodford in a December 5, 2018 article on explainthatstuff.com offers a great overview which includes an explanation, a description of how they work, and more. What follows is a brief excerpt from Woodford’s overview (Note: Links have been removed),

What is electrochromic glass?

Glass is an amazing material and our buildings would be dark, dingy, cold, and damp without it. But it has its drawbacks too. It lets in light and heat even when you don’t want it to. On a blinding summer’s day, the more heat (“solar gain”) that enters your building the more you’ll need to use your air-conditioning—a horrible waste of energy that costs you money and harms the environment. That’s why most of the windows in homes and offices are fitted with curtains or blinds. If you’re into interior design and remodeling, you might think furnishings like this are neat and attractive—but in cold, practical, scientific terms they’re a nuisance. Let’s be honest about this: curtains and blinds are a technological kludge to make up for glass’s big, built-in drawback: it’s transparent (or translucent) even when you don’t want it to be.

Since the early 20th century, people have got used to the idea of buildings that are increasingly automated. We have electric clothes washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and much more. So why not fit our homes with electric windows that can change from clear to dark automatically? Smart windows (also referred to by the names smart glass, switchable windows, and dynamic windows) do exactly that using a scientific idea called electrochromism, in which materials change color (or switch from transparent to opaque) when you apply an electrical voltage across them. Typically smart windows start off a blueish color and gradually (over a few minutes) turn transparent when the electric current passes through them.

As for the news about its Vancouver debut, I was very excited to see this April 28, 2019 article by Kenneth Chan for dailyhive.com/vancouver,

BlueSky Properties’ 10-storey office building at 988 West Broadway [in Vancouver, Canada; emphasis mine] is home to the new Vancouver offices of Industrial Alliance Financial Group, which has leased nine stories and 93,700-sq-ft of office space.

One of the building’s unique design features is its use of View Dynamic Glass technology [emphases mine] — a glass technology that controls heat and glare, reduces overall energy consumption and costs, and improves the health and wellness of individuals working inside the building.

These smart windows optimize the amount of natural light to enhance mental and physical well-being without the need for shades or blinds. The application of the technology on this building, the first of its kind in Canada, will result in energy savings of up to 20%, [emphasis mine] with the amount of sunlight streaming through automatically tinted to block glare.

Blue Sky Properties (a Bosa Family Company), the local developer for this building, was very excited about the building and the ‘smart’ glass technology, according to its April 23, 2019 news release (here for a short version and here for the full version).

Other than being happy to see the technology being employed in Vancouver, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the property. That changed on reading a May 8, 2019 article by Kenneth Chan for dailyhive.com/vancouver,

A structural engineer based in Vancouver has been stripped of his license to work in British Columbia [emphasis mine] following an investigation that determined his design for a condominium tower in Surrey fell short of the provincial building code.

According to a disciplinary notice posted by Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia Association (EGBCA) on April 30, John Bryson, a managing partner of Bryson Markulin Zickmantel Structural Engineers (BMZSE), [emphases mine] admitted to unprofessional conduct and acted contrary to the association’s code of ethics that requires its members to “hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.”

“Mr. Bryson admitted that his structural design for the building did not comply with the 2006 BC Building Code, to which he certified it had been designed, in particular with respect to seismic and wind loads,” reads the notice. [emphases mine]

BMZSE has been involved in the design work of a number of projects across Metro Vancouver, including Station Square, Rogers Arena South Tower, Lougheed Heights, River District Parcel 17, The Jervis, Harwood, Plaza 88, Solo District, Burrard Place, Centreview Place, Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, Central, Sovereign, Kings Crossing, and 988 West Broadway. [emphases mine]

You can find the ‘disciplinary notice’ (it’s an account of what Bryson failed to do and the punishment for the failure) here on the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of British Columbia (also known as Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia) website.

Presumably, all of Bryson’s projects have been reviewed since the disciplinary action.

Smart wall or smart window? Ravenbrick brings one to the market in 2013

Alex Davies posted a July 10, 2012 article on the Treehugger website about a smart window/wall system from RavenBrick. From the article (Note: I have removed links),

The RavenWindow from RavenBrick changes its tint in response to temperature, so it blocks sunlight entering a building after a set temperature has been reached. Combine it with a layer of insulating materials that store heat during the day and release it at night, and you’ve got the RavenSkin Smart Wall System.

Here’s a little more about the RavenWindow from the company’s Project Portfolio page,

RavenBrick has installed their RavenWindow product at the [US] Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden Colorado. This LEED platinum building was designed to use the most energy efficient products available. This installation, on the executive floor, is the first of three installations that will be done at NREL.

RavenWindow at NREL in the clear state viewed from the inside (from the RavenBrick website)


RavenWindow at NREL in the tinted state viewed from the inside (from the RavenBrick website)

Then, here is the view of the tinted windows from the outside,

RavenWindow at NREL in the tinted state viewed from outside (from the RavenBrick website)

They do give a fairly simple explanation of the technology, from the company’s The Technology page,

RavenBrick’s smart window systems are changing the rules of energy efficent design by doing something that previous generations of building materials simply couldn’t: letting the sun’s heat into the building when you need it, and keeping it out when you don’t.

Our thermochromic filters utilize advances in nanotechnology, pioneered and patented by RavenBrick, to transition from a transparent to a reflective state in response to changes in the outside temperature. This transition allows a building to use the sun as a source of free heat on cold days and block solar heat effectively on hot days.

RavenBrick’s technology diagram (from the RavenBrick website)

Davies’ Treehugger article offers some figures regarding savings (and another illustration),

The RavenSkin Smart Wall System promises to cut energy bills by as much as 30 percent, so it’s sure to offset the costs of installation (not listed on the RavenBrick website). The “infrared power system” doesn’t involve electricity, moving parts or wires, so it’s low maintenance, [sic]

I would have liked a little more detail. How did they derive the savings number, i.e.,  “by as much as 30%”? Also, is there any data from the US Dept. of Energy? At any rate, this product is due to reach the marketplace sometime in 2013.

I last mentioned RavenBrick and their windows in my Aug. 5, 2009 posting. In my Sept. 7, 2011 posting about the US Dept. of Energy, I focussed on smart window research being done at their Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

UK’s National Gallery holds an art/science exhibition

Priceless art works need to be restored, cleaned, and, sometimes even centuries later, authenticated. Art conservators at the UK’s National Gallery have been collaborating for years with EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) scientists to find ways to make these activities less damaging. Generally, this is not considered the most exciting topic but in a bold move, the National Gallery has opened an exhibition (Close Examination) featuring their art/science collaboration with EPSRC. From the news item on physorg.com,

Close Examination explores the pioneering work of the National Gallery’s Scientific Department by presenting the varied and fascinating stories behind more than 40 paintings in the National Gallery’s collection. The exhibition is arranged over six rooms, representing some of the major challenges faced by Gallery experts: Deception and Deceit; Transformations and Modifications; Mistakes; Secrets and Conundrums; Redemption and Recovery; and a special focus room relating to Botticelli. [emphases mine] The exhibition features works by Raphael, Dürer, Gossaert, Rembrandt and others.

The partnership between the National Gallery and EPSRC has highlighted the contribution that science and scientists make in the world of art and shows the intellectual value that emerges when scientific and artistic traditions come together. EPSRC, together with Arts and Humanities Research Council, funds a Science and Heritage Programme which aims to increase knowledge and the resilience of our cultural heritage in the face of twenty first century challenges.

I came across a similar collaboration between the Art Institute of Chicago and a chemist at Northwestern University who’d created a technique for another use altogether that the Institute’s conservators adapted. From The Nanotech Mysteries wiki page,

Richard Van Duyne, then a chemist at Northwestern University, developed the technique in 1977. Van Duyne’s technology, based on Raman spectroscopy which has been around since the 1920s, is called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy’ or SERS “[and] uses laser light and nanoparticles of precious metals to interact with molecules to show the chemical make-up of a particular dye.”

The conservators at the Institute were able to scrape off the most minute amounts of paint from a Winslow Homer painting in their efforts to examine the pigments and eventually restore the painting to its original colours. You can go here to see the painting that the conservators were trying to restore and to slide a button that will change the colours to their original shades.

Nano happenings in Alberta (Canada); smart windows, again; reading postage stamps

The first Nanotechnology Systems Diploma programme in Canada is going to be offered through the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is September 2010. Alberta as I’ve noted previously is home to Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology and its provincial government is providing substantive  support to an emerging nanotechnology sector. From the news item on Azonano,

The Canadian nanotech sector is just beginning to emerge, and Alberta is a major player. The Alberta government unveiled a nanotechnology strategy in 2007, outlining an investment of funds and infrastructure aimed at capturing a $20 billion share of the worldwide nanotechnology market by 2020. Alberta now boasts a growing nanotech enterprise sector of more than 40 companies, with many located in the Edmonton region.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Centre for Advanced Micro Nano Technology Products (ACAMP) is holding a seminar for Alberta’s conventional energy sector about nano and micro technology products. From the news item on Nanowerk,

Today at ACAMP’s latest seminar, Alberta’s conventional energy industry learned how nanotechnology, micro-systems and micro-fluidics can play a powerful role in enhancing operational performance, reducing costs and promoting efficient extraction of oil and gas resources, while opening new markets for Alberta companies worldwide.

“Micro and Nano technologies for conventional energy applications are extremely important in Alberta,” said Ken Brizel, CEO of ACAMP, “enhancing operational performance allowing for efficient extraction of oil and gas resources. Innovative new products are being developed and used locally enabling Alberta companies to compete worldwide.”

As for other parts of the Canadian nanotechnology scene such as the proposed new legislation by NDP (New Democrat Party) Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, I have sent his office some questions for an email interview and will hopefully be able to publish his responses here. (The proposed legislation was mentioned in yesterday’s posting, March 10, 2010.)

As I speed through this posting, I will take a moment for one of my pet interests, windows. Kit Eaton at Fast Company recently wrote a piece about a Dutch company that’s created ‘smart windows’ (from the article),

Whereas every home has windows. And this fact has led Dutch company Peer+ to create Smart Energy Glass panels that generate current from the sun while also acting as like those old-fashioned devices that lets you see right through a wall. But that’s not all. Similar to the other up-and-coming LCD glass treatments that let you blank a window at the flick of a switch (removing the need for curtains, blinds or shutters,) these smart windows also have selectable darkness. Darkest is the highest privacy mode, and thanks to a trick of the optics concerned, also leads to the most efficient power generation from solar input. And you can even choose between a range of shades for the glass and also incorporate logos or text into the panels, which will appeal to countless businesses.

There are some images of these windows embedded in the Fast Company article. As Eaton notes (and I heartily concur), adoption of technologies of this type will occur readily as the products become  more attractive or more stylish.

Still with the windows, the US Department of Energy has made an additional investment in SAGE Electrochomics with a $72M conditional loan guaranteed. From the news item on Nanowerk,

SAGE will transform the way buildings use energy by mass producing a revolutionary new kind of dynamic glass that can change from a clear state to a tinted state at the push of a button. Windows using SageGlass® technology control the amount of sunlight that enters a building, significantly reducing energy consumed for air conditioning, heating and lighting. The company will tap the DOE funding to build a high-volume manufacturing plant next to its headquarters in Faribault, Minn., ramping up production for commercial, institutional and residential applications.

I notice these windows do not include  self-cleaning component. Ah well.

Getting back to the Dutch for my final bit today, a postage stamp you can read like a book or use for a letter. From the William Bostwick article on Fast Company,

“Hey, did you read the stamp I sent you?” There’s no need for a letter when the stamp you use is a book. Rotterdam designer Richard Hutten has designed a new stamp for Royal TNT Post, in honor of this year’s Dutch Book Week, that doubles as a tiny tome. The 3×4 centimeter stamp opens up into an 8-page, 500-word story by Joost Zwagerman.

That’s it for today as I get ready for the PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) webcast.

Autonomous algorithms; intelligent windows; pretty nano pictures

I was reminded of watching a printer pumping out page after page after page after page of garbage output because I had activated a process I couldn’t stop when reading Jamais Cascio’s article Autonomy without intelligence? in Fast Company last week.  Cascio describes autonomous software systems operating without human intervention in the finance sector. Called, High-frequency trading (HFT), it relies on networked computers making billions of micro transactions to determine and eventually set the prices. From the Cascio article (an example referenced from a NY Times article by Charles Duhigg here),

Soon, thousands of orders began flooding the markets as high-frequency software went into high gear. Automatic programs began issuing and canceling tiny orders within milliseconds to determine how much the slower traders were willing to pay. The high-frequency computers quickly determined that some investors’ upper limit was $26.40. The price shot to $26.39, and high-frequency programs began offering to sell hundreds of thousands of shares.

The potential for abuse is huge as Cascio points out, exploiting legal loopholes left from “pre-computerized stock trading rules, illegal activities, and systems operating too fast for any human to oversee, let alone counter.” ( For more details about High-frequency trading, read the Cascio and Duhigg articles.)

Cascio then goes on to hypothesize the use of similar networked automatic programs for military purposes. Imagine programs (algorithms) being set into motion and our inability to oversee or counteract them in a military situation? The question hit home again when I found this article (Call for Debate on Killer Robots) by Jason Raimer on the BBC News. Describing one of the impacts of using drone planes that are piloted remotely (sometimes from thousands of miles away),

The rise in technology has not helped in terms of limiting collateral damage, [Professor Noel Sharkey, University of Sheffield] said, because the military intelligence behind attacks was not keeping pace.

Between January 2006 and April 2009, he estimated, 60 such “drone” attacks were carried out in Pakistan. While 14 al-Qaeda were killed, some 687 civilian deaths also occurred, he  said.

That physical distance from the actual theatre of war, he said, led naturally to a far greater concern: the push toward unmanned planes and ground robots that make their decisions without the help of human operators at all.

In fact, the article goes on to reveal that Israel is currently deploying the Harpy, an unmanned aerial vehicle that divebombs radar systems without any human intervention whatsoever. I gather everything is in the algorithms.

I recently came across the word intelligent as applied to windows. It’s a use for the word that contrasts strongly with Cascio’s where he implies that intelligence (in the context of the article cited previously) resides in humans. From the media release on Nanowerk News,

RavenBrick’s patent-pending products use nanotechnology to create an intelligent window filter that automatically blocks solar heat when the outside temperature is too hot, while delivering solar heat inside when the outside temperature is cold. RavenBrick smart-window filters use no electricity, wiring or control systems. They can cut building owners’ energy costs and consumption by as much as 50 percent. What’s more, RavenBrick’s smart-window filters make any interior space more comfortable by managing overheating on hot days, and significantly reduce drafts and cold spots on cold days.

What strikes me most about using the word intelligent to describe these new windows is that I would never have questioned it prior to juxtaposing comments from the Cascio, Duhigg, and Raimer articles. Many times I’ve heard the word intelligent or smart applied to systems or objects without every seriously questioning it. If words are important, than what does applying the word smart or intelligent to a window imply? I’m going to be playing with that one for a while.

To finish off, here’s a link to some pretty nano pictures from the SPmages09 competition which were posted on Nanowerk News. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find,

Human malaria infected red blood cells. Li Ang, National University of Singapore

Human malaria infected red blood cells. Li Ang, National University of Singapore