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Smart Windows Mark the Path Toward the “Tunable” Smart Building

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Verino77 | Flickr

New technologies are emerging like smart windows that are not only making it more energy efficient and cheaper for occupants to run their smart building systems during different seasons of the year, but are providing a way to make occupants feel more comfortable as well.

There is a new smart window on the market which is described as “tunable” in that it would give people a way to control how much light and heat come in through that window. The key here is that the smart window allows for occupants to make light and heat adjustments independently from each other. So for example, an occupant would be able to let heat in while simultaneously blocking out the light. This might be good in winter months, for example. (For more of a description about how these new smart windows work, you can check out the Technology Review article here.)

What Will Make “Tunable” Design Elements Desirable?

Such new smart windows are a good sign because they are showing that the idea of something being “tunable” is slowly becoming possible. Of course, the word “tunable” is really a catchall phrase that I am using to describe how an architectural feature can fluctuate between a spectrum of “positions” as can be chosen, either directly or indirectly, by the occupant in real-time. You see, heading in this direction will allow for more personalization and efficiency for both the occupant and the building. Plus, occupants are likely to experience heightened comfort as well.

In addition to a smart window, another architectural feature that I think would benefit from being “tunable” is interior lighting. By being able to choose between different lighting types within one fixture, an occupant might have more variability from which to choose, so they could get more appropriate lighting to meet their given task at any moment in time.

In short, such architectural transience would allow occupants to work and play in healthier conditions, and with greater building efficiency. “Tunability” is one small step toward an adaptive architecture which will be able to respond with not just “one-size-fits-all” kind of design solutions, but instead will be able to respond by selecting from the best choice of a wide spectrum of options that it can provide.





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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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