Regeneron, the biopharmaceutical company headquartered at the Landmark at Eastview in the town of Mount Pleasant, is known as a leading science and technology company delivering life-transforming medicines for serious diseases. Now, it has adopted a unique technology that is not part of biology or pharmaceuticals. It’s called “electrochromic technology” and it has to do with windows.
Regeneron has become one of the early adopters in Westchester of smart windows, which use an internal electrochromic coating. When activated by a low-voltage direct current electrical signal, the layer of special materials in the insulating glass unit changes from clear to up to 58% tinted.
The intensity of the tint can be adjusted to precisely control glare, reduce the amount of direct sunlight streaming in, reduce ambient light during video presentations, make it difficult for people to look into a building from the outside and provide personalized comfort for employees.
A computer controls the electrical signals sent to each unit of glass and automatic sensors, human input or a programmed event sequence can tell the computer how much each window unit should be tinted.
Regeneron arranged for the Silicon Valley company View, based in Milpitas, California, to provide its View Dynamic Glass units in the new Building 2 on its campus. In 2012, View invented what it describes as “the first and only predictive control for dynamic glass, View Intelligence.” The company said the system allows windows to respond predictively with no occupant intervention.
The Business Journal was given a tour of Building 2 and a demonstration of the windows by Sam Cooper, associate director of facilities operations for Regeneron. Also there was Brian Klansky, regional director and head of Northeast region sales for View.
Cooper said not only did Regeneron save money up-front by using the View Dynamic Glass unitss, but it is saving about 15% of the building’s overall energy costs.
“Our typical setup would have been a one-inch IGU (insulating glass unit) with a low-E film and motorized shades,” Cooper said. “This was $2 a square foot cheaper in our cost-benefit analysis than all of that stuff combined because you had to factor in the cost of the shades, the pockets, the wiring, the programming. This is just like putting in a piece of glass with one trunk of wire around the outer side of the building that goes back to the computer.
“The glass is programmable. There’s a computer behind the scenes and every piece of glass has a small wire to it and every one of them is addressed digitally. The computer tells the glass to do something based on an input, so if it’s a sensor it’s based on the amount of sun that it’s getting or the amount of cloud cover. If it’s a really sunny day it’s going to tint the window darker. If it’s cloud cover, it’s going to de-tint the window.”
Cooper keeps up with evolving building technologies. The idea of putting in high-tech windows, however, was almost a “eureka” moment and came while Cooper was watching a 2008 movie starring Robert Downey Jr.
“I was sitting watching ‘Iron Man’ with my kids and there’s a scene when a girl gets up and she looks out at the Malibu beachfront but it’s a bunch of black glass,“ Cooper said. Then, another character de-tints the windows, “and all of a sudden you go from blackness to this beautiful beach scene. I was thoroughly impressed and started thinking we could do something like that. I’m heavily involved here with environmental sustainability and employee wellness, so I was thinking, ‘You know, maybe there are some technologies out there that would potentially allow me to do this.’ I started investigating online. Electrochromic glazing and all of the principles of what the equipment does matched with all of the things we were looking for from an innovation standpoint and energy savings and better technology for our scientists,” Cooper told the Business Journal.
Local building inspectors did not have an issue with use of the high-tech windows, Cooper said. “They looked at this glass as a typical one-inch IGU,” he said. “They did want to understand the DC low-voltage aspect of it, but that was a brief conversation. We’re really talking about very, very small amounts of DC.”
Klansky said in the U.S. and Canada, View has installed smart windows in buildings covering 50 million square feet. There have been 450 completed projects with another 350 in various phases of construction. The maximum size of the units is 72 inches by 120 inches and they can be mounted with the long dimension horizontally or vertically. The windows can be shaped as rectangles, triangles or trapezoids. “The technology is manufactured … in Olive Branch, Mississippi, about 20 minutes outside of Memphis, Tennessee,” he said. “We are trying to keep up with demand. We haven’t met anyone yet who says, ‘I’d rather have blinds.’ So, we’re really happy with the progress.”
The projects include: an athletics and student center at the Hackley School in Tarrytown; the headquarters of Tompkins Financial in Ithaca; Meacham International Airport in Fort Worth, Texas; and a building at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, just north of San Diego.
Klansky said the company is starting to do residential towers. “If you’re spending lots of money on a beautiful condo with great views, do you really want to block those views with blinds? Here at Regeneron it’s about the lab and the employee experience, but it has great applications for better living and energy efficiency in multifamily buildings,” he said.
Cooper said Building 2 at Regeneron has been up and running for about five months. “This is really the test. We’re in 90-degree days. You put your hand next to the window and it’s super cool. There’s no heat coming through. It blocks UV (ultraviolet rays). We’re seeing the savings right now,” he said, adding that Regeneron decided to use the electrochromic windows in a building project at its location in Sleepy Hollow.
Cooper explained that testing equipment in one of the building’s labs is highly sensitive to changes in room temperature and tinting the windows to compensate for changing sunlight conditions helps maintain steady room temperature.
“In private offices, we will go to the individual and give them the opportunity to tell us how they want the window to function, what type of light they want to see, how tinted they want it to be at any particular time of day,” Cooper said.
Each employee can control the window in his or her office through a cellphone app, while a manager can control all of the windows in the area for which he or she is responsible. Cooper’s building maintenance staff has the ability to control any window in the building.
“We could be on a beach in Aruba and if they said, ‘Hey, I need this window tinted,’ I can tint it because I use my cell service and it connects back to the Wi-Fi on the site and then the Wi-Fi allows me to talk to the (control) box that allows me to tint the window from wherever I am in the world,” he said.