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Advanced materials tear into the building thermal envelope

Dynamic windows and high-tech insulation are poised to gain an $829 million foothold in the world construction market by 2020, says Lux Research.

Green buildings are already the construction industry’s highest growth sector. This is part of a broader shift towards more energy efficient construction that is driving demand for efficiency improvements in the windows, walls, roofs, and foundation that collectively comprise the so-called thermal envelope. Although incumbent solutions will continue to dominate the market, a handful of emerging technologies – including dynamic smart windows and advanced insulation – will build from a negligible commercial market today into an $829 million market in 2020, according to a new report from Lux Research.

The report, titled “Opening the Thermal Envelope: Emerging Innovation in Dynamic Windows and Advanced Insulation,” forecasts that dynamic windows – which can switch from a clear to a darkened state to provide shading from the sun – will represent a $418 million market by 2020. Meanwhile, emerging insulation technologies like aerogels and phase-change materials will find small but profitable niches in the thermal envelope, with 2020 market sizes of $230 million and $130 million, respectively. Vacuum insulation panels will struggle with usability and high costs, and reach just $50 million in the building sector in 2020.

In addition to the report, Lux Research will further explore the topic in a complimentary webinar, scheduled for August 16 at 11:00 a.m. EDT (Register) or August 17 at 3:00 p.m. CEST (Register).

“Dynamic windows and advanced insulation have reached a level of maturity and scale that make them inviting alternatives, even for the normally conservative and price-conscious construction industry,” said Murray McCutcheon, a Lux Analyst and lead author of the report. “Dynamic windows, for instance, will gain footing now through public-sector installations; this initial prove-out will create the volume to drive costs down further and fuel adoption by the commercial sector past 2016.”

The report also finds that:

  • Europe outpaces the U.S. to provide the most fertile ground. Emphasis on the thermal envelope is one part of a broader green building movement, spurred by government building construction and efficiency standards. High energy prices and strict energy-efficiency regulations continue to drive Europe as the market leader in dynamic windows, with a 57% market share.
  • Growth will accelerate as dynamic windows reach scale and costs drop. Scale is critical to reduce costs, and dynamic windows are seeing particular progress in this area. Pleotint recently started commercial production in a two million ft2 per annum capacity plant. Both Sage and Soladigm are nearing completion of hundred million dollar manufacturing facilities slated to come online in 2012, and Sage’s partner Saint-Gobain will drive the global reach for Sage windows. The most likely scenario will see dynamic window technologies undergo modest annual cost reductions of 5% for electrochromics and 2% for thermochromics, bringing prices down to open up new markets. If costs were to fall at twice that rate, this market would grow to more than $1.4 billion.

“Opening the Thermal Envelope: Emerging Innovation in Dynamic Windows and Advanced Insulation,” is part of the Lux Green Buildings Intelligence service. Clients subscribing to this service receive ongoing research on market and technology trends, continuous technology scouting reports and proprietary data points in the bi-weekly Lux Research Green Buildings Journal, and on-demand inquiry with Lux Research analysts.

About Lux Research

Lux Research provides strategic advice and on-going intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on us to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through our unique research approach focused on primary research and our extensive global network, we deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to our clients. Visit for more information.

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Carole Jacques

Lux Research, Inc.


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