Volume 29, Issue 2 - Summer 2015

A Dose of Light
Dynamic Glazing Has a Heart for Healthcare
By Nick St. Denis

“It is the unqualified result of all my experience with the sick, that second only to their need of fresh air is their need of light … I had rather have the power of carrying my patient about after the sun, according to the aspect of the rooms, if circumstances permit, than let him linger in a room when the sun is off … we must admit that light has quite as real and tangible effects upon the human body.”

—Florence Nightingale | Notes on Nursing: What it is, and what it is not | 1859

Florence Nightingale had it right, even back then.

The renowned 19th-century healthcare pioneer stressed the importance of human exposure to natural light and the outside environment. A century and a half later, many studies and compiled data are proving Nightingale’s inklings to be true.

“Studies have found that exposure to daylight and views to the outside reduce patient length of stay and the need for pain medication,” says Douglas V. Elting, president of Visions in Architecture, located in Lincoln, Neb. “It changes attitude and sleep patterns … there are a lot of advantages in regard to lighting and lighting control that we’ve known for a long time.

“Light and views to the outside were key components in healthcare facilities in the 1800s. We just got away from it over time.” Elting adds, however, that as the healthcare sector “moves toward a more value-based proposition, the ability to affect length of stay and improve outcomes relative to cost is becoming a much more important factor than before.”

Enter dynamic glass.

A demand for both natural light and controlled conditions inside has driven the use of dynamic glass in healthcare facilities. One of its more unique applications is the Butler County Health Care Center, which utilizes SageGlass on its curved curtainwall.

Where it Fits

Introducing more daylight inside requires more glass and more windows, but with that often comes glare and heat-management considerations. Visions in Architecture ran into that conundrum when designing the Butler County Health Care Center. The David City, Neb. facility features a 3,000-plus-square-foot curved glass curtainwall that extends up to 22 feet.

In that project, mechanical shades would have been difficult to use because of the complex curvature of the design, and they would have blocked the large views. Hygienic and maintenance problems for the wellness center due to dust and germ accumulation were also considered.

So Elting’s firm, which focuses primarily on designing healthcare facilities, called upon the services of Sage Electrochromics, a Saint-Gobain subsidiary that produces electrochromic dynamic glass, to help with just that. SageGlass was installed in the south façade, which allowed control of the sun and heat gain while preserving the openness and transparency of the facility.
Dynamic glazing continues to grow within the healthcare sector as its potential is realized. SageGlass has been utilized in many healthcare facilities, such as the Children’s Hospital Colorado.

The dynamic curtainwall is programmed digitally to tint in vertical sections automatically, four lites wide. The transmittance changes based on the time of day and season in relation to the sun’s angle. With SageGlass, the facility was able to increase overall energy efficiency while reducing HVAC requirements.

David Zegley of Gresham Smith & Partners is another architect who focuses on designing healthcare facilities. His Methodist Olive Branch Hospital project in Olive Branch, Miss., featured a prominent, large glass atrium.

Because of the glass atrium, Zegley says the hospital had to address the issue of heat gain, which usually means using a tinted glass or implementing a motorized shading system. The facility opted for another alternative—the application of View Dynamic Glass.

More than 2,100 square feet of View glass was used in the project, acting as the glass skin of the atrium. According to View, headquartered in Milpitas, Calif., the application of the tintable glass helped the project meet its efficiency goals while fulfilling the building’s design criteria. The hospital saved $22,000 immediately by reducing HVAC capacity and saves $2,000 annually in energy costs, giving it a five-year payback on the dynamic glass installation.

Since then, View’s involvement in healthcare projects has continued to grow, and it is now working on one in Toronto, Ontario—the Humber River Hospital—that is utilizing nearly 26,000 square feet of its dynamic glass.

The Humber River Hospital in Toronto, thanks in part to the application of View Dynamic Glass, strives to be the first “fully digital” hospital in North America.

Not Patient-Only

“Daylight and views are really important, not just for patient recovery, but also for the health and well-being of the staff,” says Dr. Helen Sanders, vice president of technical business development at Sage. She adds that “stress is one of the main causes of both mental health issues and impact on cardiovascular diseases,” and more daylight and views help combat that.

“Access to daylight also improves occupant alertness,” she says. “There has been a lot of research done on the impact daylighting and views have on staff productivity, and an important part of that is a reduction in medical errors.”

Sage’s first commercial project, in fact, was a small one—just five windows—back in 2003 at the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif.

The director of the heart surgery unit wanted to have daylight in that particular operating room, but it couldn’t use shades and blinds due to their tendency to collect and harbor dust and bacteria. The director learned of SageGlass and had the electronically tinted product installed.

Looking ahead, the company sees the healthcare sector as a big part of dynamic glazing’s future, “providing a comfortable day-lit working environment for all healthcare staff, including those doing life-critical tasks which require heightened concentration and mental acuity ... allowing them to be more effective and deliver the best care to their patients,” a recent white paper written by Sage reads.

“Studies have found that exposure to daylight and views to
the outside reduces patient length of stay and the need
for pain medication.”

Douglas V. Elting, Visions in

A Changing Dynamic

View senior director of business development Brandon Tinianov is seeing the application of the technology evolve in healthcare projects as the sector itself changes.

“We’re really going through a transformation, catalyzed by the Affordable Care Act,” he says regarding the sector’s shift to a value-based delivery model.

He says that focus has caused changes in design approach for not only hospitals, but other kinds of medical facilities.
Other programs such as the Target 100, which seeks to reduce energy consumption in hospitals by 60 percent, have contributed to an increased demand for dynamic glass in the sector.

“When tying together larger windows and improved patient outcome with improved energy efficiency, there’s only one product that can deliver on both of those drivers,” says Tinianov. “And that’s dynamic glass.”


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