Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

With American households and buildings consuming up to 40 percent of total energy, the race to develop more efficient windows is accelerating. Companies like Sage Electrochromics (acquired by Saint-Gobain last year) and View offer smart windows that can actively reduce solar heat gain by filtering visible light dynamically.

Scientists at a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory incubator company called Heliotrope Technologies recently announced what they consider to be "a material breakthrough." Like its competitor's products, the Heliotrope glass can be reversibly-tinted. However, it offers the additional advantage of infrared radiation obstruction while also being transparent, offering additional energy savings without dimming the view.

The new electrochromic technology offers three settings: full transparency, transparency while blocking the infrared spectrum, and blocking both the visible and infrared spectrum. The new composite also promises to be relatively cost-effective. Heliotrope is currently sending samples to glass manufacturers, and plans to begin producing the product in the next three years.

Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.