Time To Get Smart—A Window Into The Future

Comment by Robert J. Kriss, C2ST Editor

Scientists at the U.S Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Wisconsin are collaborating to develop customizable, “smart,” and energy-efficient windows for office buildings and residences. These windows, custom designed for particular geographic locations, contain transparent solar cells to generate electricity. Other layers of transparent materials in the window control how much of the light spectrum will pass through the window to heat and illuminate the interior and how much will be used to generate electricity. A mathematical model has been developed to determine for a specific location, based on, among other things, the angle of sunlight and other weather parameters, which materials should be used and in which geometric configuration to reduce energy consumption while providing adequate illumination. The design will be different for Chicago than for Miami, for example.  



By some estimates, buildings use 40% of our energy and 70% of our electricity in the U.S.  Buildings also account for approximately 33% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So making windows “smart” is a smart idea. Smart windows are just another example of how science and engineering can improve our quality of life in the future if we’re smart enough to support the research. For more information about smart windows, head to Argonne’s site.

1 thought on “Time To Get Smart—A Window Into The Future

  1. Do these high-tech windows meet Kant’s Categorical Imperative? How does this approach compare with low-tech design tactics including distribution of opaque and transparent parts of a building envelope depending on location, including use of tubular skylights as well as conventional windows, as well as low-tech window coverings? How does it compare with the detailed approach of Andrew Spatz, Evanston architect noted for his buildings with non-rectangular windows at seemingly strange angles – strange until you learn the explanation? Is proper insulation of the opaque parts of the building envelope included in the calculations, or just the assumption of default inadequate insulation?

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