Window and insulation experts the next plumbers?

Emerging technologies geared toward closing a "thermal envelope" in green building, already the largest growth market in construction, are poised to see increased growth by 2020, report says.

Soladigm

Could window and insulation installation specialists be the next plumbers in terms of steady work and good pay?

It's a question triggered by "Opening the Thermal Envelope: Emerging Innovation in Dynamic Windows and Advanced Insulation," a recent report from Lux Research on the green tech construction sector.

Green tech is currently the largest growth sector in the construction industry, according to Lux research.

But the research analyst's latest report focuses on the fact that the emerging technologies involving smart glass and innovative insulation materials are now expected to see the largest growth within green construction.

The tinted version of Sage's electrochromatic smart windows blocks 98 percent of solar radiation and aids in keeping the room cooler. Sage Electrochromics

As with many growth predictions about emerging technologies, the percent of growth always sounds impressive since a small market to begin with is not hard to double.

But even just concentrating on the dollar amounts, there could be a modicum of success to come.

By 2020, windows with smart glass, those that respond to changes in electric current or light to offer more shade, are expected to become a $418 million market, insulative aerogels to become a $230 million market, phase-change insulation materials a $130 million market, and vacuum insulation panels a $50 million market.

Now those are all relatively small markets. But Lux asserts in its report that as smart windows scale up in production and sales, which the two leading manufacturers Sage Electrochromics and Soladigm have been gearing up for , the prices will come down and adoption rates rise dramatically.

Currently there are two main types of smart windows. Those with thermochromic glass rely on sensors detecting heat and light to self-tint as necessary to varying degrees. Those with electrochromic glass, like those made by Sage and Soladigm, are controlled with the flip of a switch . The glass appears clear, but when you apply an electrical current to it, ions from microscopic layers of ceramic material within the dual-pane window move between layers and cause the coating to tint. More than just offering shade to a sunny room, the tinted version of the window blocks 98 percent of solar radiation and aids in keeping the room cooler.

Electrochromic glass windows can save as much as 25 percent on heating and cooling a building, according to Soladigm.

Currently electrochromics are predicted to drop annually in price at a rate of 5 percent a year, and thermochromics at 2 percent. But should those reduction rates double, smart windows will become at least a $1.4 billion industry by 2020, according to Lux Research.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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