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Saint-Gobain Glass has acquired 50 percent of the equity of the U.S. company SAGE Electrochromics for the large-scale manufacture of electrochromic glass. Activated by a low-voltage current, electrochromic glass adapts its light and heat transmission – and so its tint – to the level of sunlight and the building's ambient temperature, without hindering external visibility. It significantly reduces the amount of energy consumed for air conditioning, heating and lighting, and enhances occupant comfort and well-being. For architects, it creates an aesthetic and efficient alternative to the current and prevalent use of mechanical window shades and blinds which currently dominate the market.
Saint-Gobain Glass and SAGE will build the world's first large-scale electrochromic glass plant in Faribault, Minn. The project which started in November 2010 will cost about 135 million US dollars. It will act as the spearhead for electrochromic technology worldwide. The new plant will have an annual production capacity of more than 370, 000 square meters (4 million square feet) of electrochromic glass with sizes ranging up to 1.5 x 3.5 meters (5 x 10 feet), much larger than currently available in the market. The plant is scheduled to begin production starting in mid-2012. Leveraging the resultant economies of scale, this innovative glass will be sold at an affordable price.
Currently, with more than 100 patents and 40 years' combined research experience, the two companies develop the market's most widely recognized electrochromic glass.
"This alliance heralds the start of a new revolution in the habitat glass industry," said Jean-Pierre Floris, senior vice president of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain and president of the Innovative Materials Sector. "Thanks to the partnership between Saint-Gobain and SAGE, we are providing electrochromic advanced glazing that will be environmentally significant and affordable. SAGE and Saint-Gobain, whose names are associated with some of the world's most prestigious buildings, will now be providing the most efficient electrochromic glazing to the international market through the certified distribution networks of Sage and QUANTUM GLASS."
"Until now, electrochromic glass has been an emerging product, not widely deployed due to cost and manufacturing challenges. This alliance will trigger economies of scale, making possible a new era of high-performance windows that are both eco-friendly and economically sound," said John Van Dine, SAGE chief executive office. "We are combining the best science and capabilities of the world's two leading electrochromic technologies, and capitalizing on Saint-Gobain's glassmaking experience, to deliver a product that's higher quality and more durable than ever before, at half the cost of today's electrochromic products. This alliance will dramatically accelerate global adoption of this game-changing technology in both commercial and residential markets."
SAGE will remain an independent company and continue to market its SageGlass products in North America where they are used in hundreds of up-market commercial, institutional and residential buildings. Saint-Gobain will market SageGlass under the QUANTUM GLASS brand in Europe. The two companies will work together to develop a marketing strategy for Asia and the rest of the world, leveraging Saint-Gobain's distribution partnerships.
Two members of the Saint-Gobain management team – Floris and Francois-Xavier Moser, Saint-Gobain Glass Solutions managing director – will join the SAGE board of directors, which will also have two representatives of the existing shareholders as well as two independent directors.
This strategic alliance will open up new prospects for architects and designers, by providing creative, affordable and mass-market glass solutions used for the design of comfortable, aesthetic, energy-saving and environmentally friendly buildings.