In response to the needs of its aging population, New Zealand is investing its country's retirement money in American greentech startups such as View's dynamic glass.
The NZ Super Fund has about $20 billion of Kiwi pensioner money burning a hole in the government coffers, compelling the sovereign fund to invest in such adventures as the Bloom Energy fuel cell and LanzaTech's waste-gas-to-fuel and chemicals startup (also funded by Khosla Ventures). It was just announced that the NZ Super Fund is now part of a $150 million funding round for View's electrochromic window glass.
Clearly, those geriatric Kiwis have a Khosla-esque appetite for risk.
View, the Milpitas, Calif.-based startup, has raised more than $500 million since its inception as Soladigm seven years ago from investors including Corning, Madrone Capital Partners, Khosla Ventures, General Electric, Reinet Investments, NanoDimension, DBL Investors, Navitas Capital, Sigma Partners and The Westly Group. View claims more than 100 window installations across North America, with "an additional 100 underway."
As GTM's Katie Tweed has reported, View’s dynamic glass uses electrochromic technology and changes through four different tints to save energy and improve use of light in commercial buildings. The windows are coated with metal oxides, which activate the tint when charged with a small amount of voltage. By reducing the heat and glare that’s allowed into a building, the company says it can cut HVAC and lighting consumption by up to 20 percent and HVAC peak load by 25 percent.
Brandon Tinianov, senior director of business development, and Robyn Hannah, senior director of global communications, provided some more details. Tinianov acknowledged that "getting into the building industry with any new technology is hard" and requires "using the existing trades" and "not creating a new work force," as residential solar has done.
Tinianov (once the CTO of building materials aspirant Serious Energy) emphasizes that the 200 projects that View has installed already make financial sense -- in addition to the comfort, recruiting, and health benefits provided by the adaptive building envelope.
Standard curtain wall costs roughly $100 per square foot, while curtain wall that includes electrochromic glass can cost up to $140 per square foot, according to Tinianov. But the payback math requires a more holistic approach, "not just a bunch of 5 percent solutions." Projects have to make financial sense and take into account HVAC, blinds and O&M.
As buildings move toward net-zero energy, integrating the building envelope as part of the HVAC system makes absolute sense and, according to the firm, can reduce air conditioning load by 89 percent in one local example -- instead of 100 tons, it's down to 20 tons, according to the View exec in an interview.
"Simply put, it takes big capital to build a state-of-the-art factory that coats 10-foot-long pieces of glass (think 10’ LCD screens) at volume. With that already built, we all know that smart glass is the future. We’ll all be using it a decade from now. The mainstream adoption point will be the meeting of price reduction and increasing savings numbers (the latter driven by base energy costs and code constraints). Dynamic glass is a cost-effective NZE [net zero energy] strategy, and NZE is the future," said Tinianov in an email.
Robyn Hannah provided the following use case: "By using View Dynamic Glass, Methodist Olive Branch Hospital saw a 35 percent HVAC reduction, resulting in an immediate $22,000 cost saving. The technology had a five-year payback with $2,000 annual energy savings and contributed to the hospital's LEED Gold certification."
View’s major competitor, SageGlass, owned by Saint-Gobain, has been shipping dynamic glass for more than a decade and counts various universities, government buildings and healthcare facilities as clients. Glass Apps also claims a number of customers for its window-tint technology. Stephen Lacey, GTM senior editor, has reported on the technology used in smart glass.
As we've reported, View has raised considerable sums of money and landed some big-name clients and big-name investors, but smart glass continues to be a small market because an electrochromic window still costs about twice as much as a traditional double-paned window. In Katie Tweed's words, "The wide acceptance of dynamic windows will likely begin with those markets that are willing to pay a premium for higher performance. The glass could also offer a faster payback in markets where window-clad commercial space is charged a premium for energy when demand is highest."
Market analysts could not manage to estimate the market's value at more than a billion dollars. As we've reported, IDTechEx estimates the global smart windows market will be $700 million nearly a decade from now, in 2024. That’s lower than the nearly $900 million Navigant anticipates in 2022. NanoMarkets estimates that of the different technologies available, electrochromic glass will do the best in the smart windows market.