For manufacturers of smart materials, the construction sector presents a huge potential market with exterior and interior surfaces of buildings worldwide. In fact, smart materials are already in use here with self-dimming glass and self-cleaning windows, and some initial appearances of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
What n-tech sees as the way forward for smart materials in construction is in the emergence of multifunctional smart material platforms. Consider a window that can self-dim, self-clean, act as a solar panel, and an OLED lighting panel, depending on the time of day or ambient environment.
It seems logical that smart (self-dimming) windows will be the place where such combinations will first arrive, since these are already real products sold by a dozen or so well-funded firms and there are existing efforts to combine solar control with other appealing functions. Such windows also can be made using existing technologies, and there don’t seem to be major technological challenges – and if extra functionalities can be added at low cost, product price/performance ratios can be dramatically improved.
However, n-tech believes the real barrier to further development of multi-functional building glass is not in technology development — it’s in pricing strategy. Glass firms claim customers still don’t want to pay much extra for a “smart” IGU. To our thinking, that’s actually part of a bigger question: Can multifunctional glass be turned into a real business, and what are the appropriate marketing strategies to make that happen?
Our answer is a resounding ‘yes,’ and we offer four potential strategies to help glass companies better translate business and investment activities into sales activities.