Smart Windows Fix Dumb Problem of Too Much Noise, Too Much Light: Sage Electrochromic Glass Changes With Flick Of Switch
Kimmel Center Before Renovation of Terrace/Promo image
The Dorrance H. Hamilton Garden Terrace at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia was designed by Rafael Viñoly to be a beautiful rooftop garden under the huge vaulted glass roof, with a stunning view of the city. Unfortunately, it gets hot in greenhouses, and whenever events were held in the Terrace, noise would bounce off the roof and fill the entire plaza, so that it couldn't be rented during performances in the theaters below. No doubt this was controversial, but Michael Prifti, principal of BLT architects, told the Architects Newspaper last year:
The new design puts a glass cap over the garden so that the temperature can be controlled and the noise contained. “It had a parapet wall, and what we’ve done is put a crown on top of it. Yet the visual intention is just as strong as ever,” said Prifti. “But it now it can finally can work on its own.”
However, putting a glass roof under a glass roof doesn't solve the problem; you still have to control the sunlight. That's where Sage Electrochromic glass comes in. It was our Best of Show product at Greenbuild last year; I wrote then that " my brain exploded when I started considering the real architectural possibilities of the stuff."
The Hamilton Terrace is an example; the view of the City and of the glass roof of the Kimmel were key elements of Viñoly's design; you couldn't just pull blinds over it. The architect is quoted in the press release:
We initially designed in motorized shades that would be pulled during the hot times of the day because we knew the solar load would be so intense,” said architect Donna Lisle of BLT Architects. “But motorized shades are expensive, often break or won’t close evenly, and you can’t see out through them.....
When the SageGlass skylights fully tint they create this big defined square of clear cobalt blue that is stunning to view from the plaza below or outside from the street. The building owner also wanted the design to enhance the rental appeal of the terrace as a ‘sky room,’ which was characterized by its connection to the day and night sky and the unique perspective of seeing the cityscape from above. Being able to maintain those views with electrochromic glass helped us achieve those objectives.
At the Hamilton Terrace, electrochromic glass is again being installed in a non-traditional use, a box inside another roof. Conventional blinds would have blocked the view, which is what people pay for here; Conventional glass wouldn't have improved the situation much at all. As architect Donna Lisle put it so succinctly, this stuff is "wow".