Aesthetically appealing and versatile, the use of glass in the building sector continues to grow in popularity. This presents a key challenge for the EU when it comes to achieving their objectives of increasing the number of nearly zero-energy buildings and becoming climate-neutral by 2050. This is because glass is largely an energy inefficient material as a lot of heat goes in or out through it, resulting in energy loss as well as a poor indoor climate. In the EU-funded GlasSkin project, PHYSEE – a research and development company – set out to address these concerns with SmartSkin, their smart window solution. “The project was designed to realise our ambition of changing glass from inert shell to living skin by incorporating our patented coating, solar and sensor technology in 100 % transparent insulated glass units,” notes Willem Kesteloo, project coordinator. Thanks to this solution, windows become an energy source instead of an energy sink, offering a payback time instead of remaining an expensive cost.
A closer look at SmartSkin
“We found that currently the market wants two things. First, the most healthy, comfortable, productive and smart environment to work and live in,” explains Kesteloo. The second is to have an energy-neutral or energy-positive building. However, these two needs do not align currently. This is because offering more comfort usually involves using more energy. The SmartSkin solution adapts to the internal and external environment, optimising natural light, heat/cold, and air to achieve the desired indoor climate. It can reduce the energy consumption of a building by up to 30 % without compromising on design or comfort. “With our latest machine learning algorithms, we can actually offer the perfect marriage between a healthy environment and energy positive building,” adds Kesteloo.
Breaking into the glass industry
In GlasSkin, PHYSEE further developed their technology to bring it to the level where its performance significantly outweighs the costs for their stakeholders, making it ready for international scale-up eventually. The SmartSkin windows were successfully installed in several pilots throughout the Netherlands and have been certified with the EN 1279 certification by the glass manufacturing partner NSG Pilkington. “Despite experiencing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were also successful in entering into official SmartSkin partnerships with two of the four largest global glass manufacturers and have many projects in the pipeline that want to implement the technology,” says Kesteloo. Looking towards the future, PHYSEE’s product roadmap will focus on improving their current IoT and solar technologies integrated in windows as well as other facade applications in buildings such as blinds, natural ventilation and artificial lighting. This improved product offering is called SENSE, and SmartSkin is a crucial part of it. Kesteloo concludes: “We are also very keen to apply for the Enhanced European Innovation Council pilot to keep our momentum as we are very much driven by our sense of urgency. If we indeed want to have the European building stock meet the required energy efficiency levels, there is a lot of work to be done, and we aim to play our part.”
GlasSkin, glass, buildings, SmartSkin, PHYSEE, pilot, smart window