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A Beginner’s Guide to Working with Switchable Glass Panels

In any architectural design there will be a balance between design elements, working with natural light, open space, and privacy requirements to create an attractive, yet functional space. With its ability to transition instantly from transparent to opaque, smart glass technology brings new solutions to this age-old challenge. For those considering switchable glass for the first time, here’s what you need to know about working with this innovative product.

What is smart glass?

If you’re wondering what’s so ‘smart’ about smart glass, the most important thing to know is that it allows traditional materials such as glass to switch, on demand, from transparent to shaded, or even totally opaque.

To achieve this instant privacy, switchable glass panels are custom made using a lamination process which encapsulates a Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC) film between two or more glass sheets.

When an electrical current is passed through this film, the liquid crystal molecules align, allowing light to pass unhindered and the glass appears transparent. When the power is switched off, the molecules relax into a random orientation. This diffuses the light coming through the glass, which now appears opaque.

Depending on the requirements of your application, you could choose to specify:

  • Privacy smart glass – turns from transparent to opaque in less than 0.1 seconds.
  • Solar smart glass – designed specifically to control solar glare and heat.
  • Blackout smart glass – providing more than 99.4% visible light block.

switchable glass panels help to provide an intriguing aesthetic and added functionality to your commercial or residential project

Where can I use smart glass?

Architects and interior designers are using switchable glass to great effect in a number of applications, including both commercial and residential spaces.

With the rise in open plan living and shared space areas, switchable glass panels are increasingly popular in residential design as a means to incorporate privacy without sacrificing a light and airy aesthetic. Architects often specify privacy glass in bathrooms and bedrooms where instant privacy is a must, as well as in high-end projects where curtains or blinds would detract from clean lines or large, open spaces.

In the commercial sector, smart glass is probably most well known as a means to realise stylish office interiors. Switchable glass walls and interior partitions can help to create an agile work environment, catering for both the open plan office and the private meeting room in a single design. From reception areas that make an impact, to boardrooms with ‘wow’ factor, smart glass adds interest and increases natural light levels.

Another application seeing increasing interest in light of the COVID pandemic is the use of smart glass in hospitals where it can be used to create more hygienic patient cubicles. By replacing curtains with smooth, easy-to-clean switchable glass panels, it is possible to reduce the spread of germs while still protecting patient privacy.

How will technical considerations impact my design?

Picking the best smart glass for your project will involve balancing many factors. In the first instance, you will need to consider your application and the needs of the end user.

For instance, are you looking to create interior privacy without blocking light, or do you need high performance glazing to create shade where sun exposure could be damaging to artworks? Are you sourcing glass for interior walls, or external windows? Honing your project requirements will help you decide on the most appropriate switchable glass for your design.

Once the type of smart glass has been identified, planning is essential to ensure that technical requirements are met. Just like lighting, smart glass must be included in the electrical layout for your building to ensure the appropriate position of electrical spurs or connection boxes.

Because smart glass is an electrical device, all designs also need to ensure that the power cable can run from the glass to the power controller and on to the mains supply. This means you will need to think carefully about window frame design, as well as operable windows and doors which may require the use of adapted pivots, hinges or connectors.

Time spent planning prior to installation will always pay off. A dialogue between client, architect, your smart glass manufacturer, and the wider installation team is therefore invaluable.

How much will smart glass cost?

Prices for smart glass can vary depending on the technology selected, the type of glass, its thickness, colour, or coatings, etc. Working with an experienced smart glass manufacturer can help you find the best price while also focusing on premium quality.

As with any other project element, you’ll want to choose a product that delivers value for money. That means selecting the right smart glass technology for your design; one that meets project needs, comes in on budget, and adds value to your design for many years to come.

One unexpected way that switchable glass panels can add value to your design long term is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By enabling users to reduce peak electrical demands on lighting and cooling, smart glass technology can actually cut overheads for building users. Combine this with lasting performance and timeless clean lines, and it’s clear that clients will have plenty to value in a smart glass installation.

Why choose Smartglass International?

With a history of delivering switchable glass solutions spanning over 20 years, we have successfully worked with prestigious clients and world-renowned architects on landmark projects throughout the world.

Our high quality smart glass products are designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as easy to use, with each unit built-to-order in our purpose-built factory.

We strive to be as flexible as possible in order to meet your project needs. That means our design team can work with the client, architects, and wider team, in order to ensure that products are optimally designed in terms of quality, regulatory compliance, safety, aesthetics, and function.

With every aspect of the build under our control, we can deliver unparalleled quality and control from start to finish. Guided by your specifications we can help you to tailor a smart glass solution designed for the unique needs of your project, ultimately ensuring that switchable glass is a smart choice for your next build.


To find out how Smartglass International could help with your next project, contact us for expert advice and a quote.

Download Smartglass Brochure

Discover the possibilities of switchable smart glass to create multi-functional
spaces that adapt to users’ needs at the flick of a switch.

Download Smartglass Brochure

Discover the possibilities of switchable smart glass to create multi-functional spaces that adapt to users' needs at the flick of a switch


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