Innovative construction

Exploring Dynamic New Technologies in Building Construction

Building technology experts at O.CON: The Office Conference this week in Los Angeles shared some of the latest innovations in construction materials and their value propositions with attendees.

Eric Nelson, an architect and energy expert with Nelson Architech GmbH, discussed a new kind of high-performance insulation system already in use in Sweden and surrounding areas. The company plans to expand and begin applying their technology to projects in the U.S.

The Solar Activated Façade (SAF) is a solar-induced cladding system that can store thermal energy, reducing the temperature gradient from the inside to the outside and consequently reducing heat loss in cold weather. What sounds like complicated technology is actually comprised of low-tech elements: wood and glass. The three-part system includes a wood absorber with thermal storage, air gap which helps with temperature and moisture regulation, and glass outer layer for weather protection.

In winter months, the SAF maximizes solar absorption through increased surface area. In summer, cooling is achieved through reflection, with minimal absorption and venting. The cladding is low-tech, self-regulating and highly sustainable. A Swiss developer who implemented the technology in eight residential buildings saw energy consumption decrease by 80 percent between 2004 and 2016.

“Annual costs over 50 years are 35 to 40 percent lower for SAF compared to traditional face brick and wood siding,” Nelson pointed out.

Also with a glimpse into the future of building design and construction was Brandon Tinianov, vice president of View. While View’s Dynamic Glass technology installs with traditional trades and integrates into existing building management technology, the product introduces a new level of automated intelligence to a building’s structure.

The glass allows for dynamic control of heat and glare, with four levels of tint that vary from 1 (about the tint of your typical car window) to 4 (only 3 percent of visible light gets through). Tinianov shared an example of an energy model which showed light penetration on an eighth-floor office building. Almost the entire floor area (95 percent) was exposed to direct sunlight over the course of the year, which meant every window had to be fitted with rolling blinds – which still don’t diffuse any solar heat coming in. With this type of glass technology, that heat is diffused and workers can sit closer to windows, allowing tenants to take advantage of more usable space.

“There are proven benefits of access to views and natural light,” Tinianov added.“Studies have seen up to a 15 percent increase in worker productivity.”

It’s clear tenants see the appeal of keeping employees happy: a new survey by Cleveland State and Central Michigan University to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Real Estate Research showed tenants are willing to pay 1 percent more rent for green building attributes, including access to natural light.

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