Next-Generation Smart Windows: Materials and Markets: 2011

27 Sep 2011 • by Natalie Aster

Self-tinting windows have been available for many years, but have never generated much money for their suppliers, partially because they were not effectively marketed. NanoMarkets now sees opportunities for greater commercialization of smart windows as prices are coming down, materials are getting better, and companies are raising money. In addition, some companies are obscuring the cost of the smart coatings by combining them with the high and variable cost of the glass on which they are used.

In fact, smart windows benefit a great deal from the high cost of the glass itself. Because even conventional architectural glass is quite expensive, for example, the cost of substituting conventional windows with smart windows can seem smaller when compared in relative terms, particularly when the dividing line between the cost of the glass and the cost of the smart functionality is blurred.

For self-cleaning windows, the high cost has been a major limiting factor as the main advantages of using self-cleaning glass have been less quantifiable or smaller in value than energy savings. A major opportunity for self-cleaning window suppliers is to lower the cost of the self-cleaning coatings and also focus on perceived cost by matching the coatings with midrange glass such that the final product can be more comparable in cost to a conventional high-end window.

The report “Next-Generation Smart Windows: Materials and Markets: 2011” by NanoMarkets explains where these opportunities are to be found and how they are best exploited. It builds on NanoMarkets long experience with materials used for smart building products such as lighting and building-integrated solar panels. In addition to the analysis of the market opportunities, the report also includes an eight-year forecast of the market for smart windows, by application area and by the type of “smart” functionality of the windows. The report is essential reading for firms that produce or develop smart coatings of all types and for window suppliers seeking to add value to—and make more money from—their products by giving them new functionalities.

Report Details:

Next-Generation Smart Windows: Materials and Markets: 2011

Published: March 2011
Price: US$ 2,495.00

Report Sample Abstract

Architectural Opportunities

The architectural windows market depends heavily on the overall construction market. This market is still struggling worldwide since the burst of the housing bubble, and will probably continue to do so for several years. Smart windows suppliers will thus need to focus on two areas: segments where the construction market is relatively better off, and retrofits of existing buildings.

With its nuclear industry essentially crippled and energy costs high, Japan may be very open to novel technologies that promote energy efficiency as rebuilding efforts get underway in the parts of Japan that have been devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Germany has long been home to strong "green" movements and renewable energy deployments and these could also prove drivers for smart windows, especially in the growing commercial property segment. NanoMarkets also expects China to be a significant market for smart windows going forward, however many of these products may ultimately be made within China.

Retrofits are a bit problematic for smart windows, as the coatings in a retrofit must be applied to the outside of the pane and are thus subject to UV light and especially weathering far in excess of new installations, where the coatings can be applied to the interior surface of the outer pane. In addition, applying the new film to existing glass exposes the full cost of the coating to the decision-making process. NanoMarkets, however, believes there are likely to be niche markets for retrofit films to make smart windows out of ordinary ones, mainly for large commercial windows, where the cost of removing and reinstalling existing windows may be prohibitive.

NanoMarkets also expects that, due to the significant differences between commercial and residential markets, distinct product lines will be developed for each. Furthermore, commercial users of electrochromic windows are likely to be first to do away with blinds and avoid their costs and associated aesthetics, although residential markets will also eventually switch to smart windows. In fact, self-tinting windows stand to capture a significant share of the market for blinds, shades, curtains, etc. used primarily to block light from passing through architectural windows.

The growing interest in green-building will be a major driving factor for growth of electrochromic and thermochromic windows. The improvements in energy efficiency provided by smart windows are typically required to meet green certification requirements, and they are often preferable to mechanical louvers or other, more complex, alternatives. In addition, smart windows seem as if they will have a major role to play in the development and proliferation of net zero homes.

The convenience provided by self-cleaning windows through reduced manual cleaning and improved clarity will also be attractive to certain segments of the market. In business settings, the reduced labor has a definite value, while for residential owners, it is the time savings that is appreciated.

Importantly, smart window technologies will spill over into more mainstream building markets. Therefore, while smart windows will most likely remain but a niche of the construction glass industry, the architectural market is the largest segment of the smart windows market, and that industry is so large that such a niche still means real money-making opportunities—on the order of more than a billion dollars in annual revenues by 2018. Not surprisingly, most of those revenues will come from exterior applications. When considering the technology, electrochromic windows account for about 90% of sales.

Automotive Interest

Some of the best commercialization success stories have involved automatically dimming rear-view mirrors and important up-and-coming applications are to be found in automotive windows. And NanoMarkets expects the automotive market to begin using electrochromic glass in other places—like side windows and sunroofs—before too long. To increase the addressable market in automobiles beyond mirrors, however, electrochromic smart coating firms will need to improve response times, develop effective failsafe measures to prevent unexpected tinting and provide more precise control of tinting levels to address safety concerns related to visibility through most automotive windows.

On-demand control of self-cleaning glass, though it will not emerge for a few years, will offer even greater opportunities than electrochromic glass in the automotive market in the next eight years. Because of the scope and importance of automotive window cleaning, NanoMarkets sees the automotive sector as the largest segment of the self-cleaning windows market by 2018. By this time, revenues from automotive markets will in fact become comparable to those from architectural markets.

Expanding to New Markets

Electrochromic glass already has a foothold in commercial transportation markets with controlled shading windows in aircraft passenger windows and isolation screens for train operators. Increased penetration in these transportation markets is coming as costs come down and awareness of their features goes up, along with new penetration into consumer markets for appliances, household mirrors, and toys. The switchable functionality of electrochromic glass provides opportunities for suppliers to develop new, innovative uses for some market niches. The market for thermochromic windows in other transportation sectors is proportionally larger than in the automotive segment because of the lesser importance of controlled visibility in passenger compartments of other vehicles.

More information can be found in the report “Next-Generation Smart Windows: Materials and Markets: 2011” by NanoMarkets.

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