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Sustainable School Installs Electronically Tinted Windows

Control Daylight Glare, Conserve Energy

By: Heather West - Monday, July 10, 2006
Source: SAGE Electrochromics

Expected to open in 2007, Twin Lakes Elementary School in Elk River, Minn., will feature electronically tintable SageGlass┬« windows installed in the building's science center.  At the push of a button, the glass will switch from clear to a highly tinted state, actively controlling daylight, heat gain and glare, while maintaining the view outdoors.  These benefits along with other sustainable design strategies aid the school district's pursuit of U.S. Green Building Council's Gold Certification under the LEED Rating System┬«.  In addition to contributing to its learning environment, the innovative window system will become part of the curriculum for the school's 750 students.

The SageGlass product application will be the focus of a "learning lab" in which Twin Lakes' students will conduct energy- and temperature-related comparisons between their SageGlass-equipped science center and their classrooms with conventional windows and shading.  "We look at this science lab as a 'pilot project' for the SageGlass product and we intend to incorporate it into the school district's elementary school science curriculum as a learning tool," notes Dr. Ron Bratlie, director of business and operations for Elk River Area School District ISD 728.  "One of the main drivers of the design and construction of this $18 million project is energy conservation, and that is one of the things that spurred our choice of SageGlass units," says Bratlie.  "This product's capacity for suppressing solar heat gain will result in significant cooling and heating savings for Twin Lakes."

According to Helen Sanders, SAGE's vice president of customer solutions, it takes less electricity to power and control 1,500-square-feet of SageGlass products per day than it does to power a 60-watt incandescent light bulb.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electronically tintable window systems are capable of providing up to 40% savings on energy bills, 20% savings on operating costs, 24% reduction in peak demand, and a 25% decrease in the size of HVAC systems.

Functionality also holds strong appeal for Bratlie: "The tintable window units provide the daylighting that's so important for learning, while enabling teachers to control light intensity.  Blinds and shades really have no place in sustainable design and building, because they require the use of more electric lighting more often, which in turn leads to higher energy costs."

Bratlie continues, "SAGE's glass products will allow natural light to continue entering the interior space, simultaneously providing the desired darkening, as well as maintaining climate control and comfort for teachers and students.  The electronic tinting of SageGlass products is a green technology that fits the Twin Lakes project very well."

Glare control is another SageGlass product feature that will be of special importance to the science center and its users, "because it will enable better utilization of PCs and other equipment for which glare minimization is necessary," Bratlie observes.  The science center is on the south-facing side of the school and is located near the building's core.  The window units are fabricated into window systems manufactured by Wausau Window and Wall Systems and installed by W.L Hall Company.

"This is our first use of SageGlass products, and we are excited," says Mike Schrock, a principal in Schrock DeVetter Architects, P.A.  "We designed Twin Lakes in accordance with high-performance building standards and 100% daylighting concepts, so it made good sense to incorporate sustainable tintable window technology that promotes daylighting and adds to the building's quality of life."  Schrock notes that the building has many dormers and clerestory windows, giving it an "old school" flavor that harkens back to a time when large windows and other daylighting elements were hallmarks of school buildings.

Leaders in electrochromic technology for more than 15 years, SAGE Electrochromics, Inc. electronically tintable glass products are available to the international architectural building market. Consistently proven reliable for use in exterior building applications, SageGlass® products help reduce energy bills by controlling solar heat gain and increase worker productivity by allowing additional daylighting, minimizing glare, and enhancing occupant comfort.

To learn more about SAGE and its products, please call (877) 724-3321, or visit

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