A Dynamic Solution to Sustainability

April 19, 2022
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport embraces dynamic glass to cut energy costs.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is embracing dynamic glass as valuable tool to address the environmental impact of the facility while enhancing the traveler experience.

The airport is installing 14,000 square feet of dynamic glass as part of the 300,000-square-foot S1 Concourse project inside Terminal 4. Once the facility opens in June, airport leaders will track metrics and traveler feedback to gauge the impact of the glass on lowering energy usage during peak usage periods and enhancing comfort inside the terminal.  

“The south view is going to be stunning. I’ve already been in that concourse looking out at South Mountain and at the southern runways and looking at the Air National Guard facility,” said Chad Makovsky, director of aviation services for PHX. “I expect we’ll see lots of families looking out as they’re waiting for their flight to depart and enjoying the views.”    

Dynamic glass, also known as smart glass or electrochromic glass, intelligently tints to bring in as much daylight as possible while blocking glare and unwanted heat from outdoors. This creates a more comfortable environment for travelers inside the terminal by stabilizing the ambient environment inside the terminal. This also means less stress on airport HVAC systems needing to heat or cool an area of the terminal.  

The city of Phoenix and the airport are focused on reducing the overall carbon footprint of the airport via sustainability planning. Dynamic glass was one of the technologies embraced by airport planners to reduce energy costs.

The discussion happened at the project level as a sustainable solution to the heat and glare typically seen in Phoenix, especially with the southern exposure of the concourse. Several North American airports have installed it with great success to decrease the heat gain of the facility and help with energy costs as well as improved inside environment.

PHX leaders reached out to other airports with dynamic glass to better understand the pros and cons. The decision was made to include it in the project through many coordination and design development meetings.

“If you look at it from the P3 perspective, people are going to have a much more enjoyable experience at the terminal,” Makovsky said. “Our employees will be more productive with natural light and they won’t be squinting trying to find what’s the right key they’re typing on a keyboard and from a planet perspective, the reduction in the usage of energy is always a good thing in the long run.”

Studies have shown PHX could see up to a 25% reduction in peak load energy during the summer because of the glass. The annual electric bill for the airport is about $16 million.

If the metrics work out, Makovsky said the airport will look at a wider installation of dynamic glass across Terminal 4.

The Impact of Dynamic Glass

Kristi Crase, strategy director, aviation, View Inc., said dynamic glass gives airports back real estate lost during the day to glare and heat while enhancing the passenger experience and sustainability efforts. 

“It’s reducing the solar radiation that’s coming into the building, it’s reducing the load on HVAC systems and reducing energy costs,” she said.

View’s system offers an intelligent software platform that looks at the position of the sun, the orientation of the building, the building occupancy use and current weather conditions to provide glare protection when you need it and views all the time.

Smart windows predictively tint to provide maximum light and views while reducing the impacts of glare and heat, like transition lenses for your building.

View does a full analysis of building, which includes a solar and glare analysis. It examines tint schedules and sets up software to best serve the airport going forward. Airport operations staff can still change tint schedules when needed and View provides a Customer Success Manager to the airport to assist with any changes needed going forward.

“We’re a technology company. We come at this from a technology perspective,” Crase said. “Our focus is smart buildings. Our technology platform is designed to address building design and operation needs today while providing flexibility to adapt to needs and changes in the future.”

The company offers an enterprise-grade environmental sensor system: View Sense. It rides on the same network as the glass but offers a full terminal deployment of sensors that monitor light and views thermal health and acoustic wellness to illustrate a full view of environmental conditions to bring back vital information airport operations teams to provide data to improve building performance and enhance quality and comfort create.

View will soon offers transparent 4K display that allows for smart communication directly on the window, taking the real estate of the windows and turning it into something that you can use for entertainment and communications.

Choose Glass First

Smart glass should be one of the first considerations when planning a terminal improvement project because it can have a significant impact on the rest of the design.

“The system does a lot of things that can reduce costs and it can reduce capital expenditures,” Crase said. “Any kind of shading device can potentially be removed.”

Airports need to consider the installation of smart glass through a total cost of ownership. Crase recommended thinking about the aesthetic look of the glass. Electrochromic glass tints blue by nature, but systems like View’s Generation 4 product are designed to tint gray. 

“We’re not just a static piece of glass. We’re not just a piece of construction glass. We’re doing something quite different and disruptive when it comes to the smart building market,” she said. 

PHX leaders looked at the best value, not just price when sourcing glass. They examined warranties, experience with installations and the overall value proposition when picking the right solution.

Makovsky said airports need to give dynamic glass serious consideration when making terminal upgrades. It addresses issues from a human comfort perspective, a quality of living and healthy environment perspective and ultimately the environmental impact and the value proposition for a business.

Glass will be in place for decades, so it’s important to make the right decision. Makovsky said he looks at functionality and the ability to update the firmware as some of the considerations.

“It’s not as simple as putting in glass. You’re not just pulling a pane and putting a pane in,” he said. “You have to look at low voltage connectivity lines going through the mullions to be able to prepare. You need to do your homework and make sure you have qualified teams.”