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Windows that keep out the sun without blinds

Mar 28, 2014

FORTUNE -- When the afternoon sun starts pouring into your office window you have two choices -- either draw the shade and lose your view or keep it open and swelter for the rest of the day. A recent study by the Urban Green Council revealed that at any time 59% of windows in New York City are covered by blinds.

If a Silicon Valley startup has its way, you might soon be able to enjoy the best of both worlds. View of Milpitas, Calif., makes office glass that automatically dims with the intensity of the sun. This “dynamic” glass contains nanotech layers in the glass 1/50 the width of a human hair. As the sun intensifies it regulates an electric current that makes the ions in the glass shift positions, blocking the intensity of the light.

“These windows not only make occupants happier,” Says CEO Rao Mulpuri, an entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in material science from Boston University, “but also save energy.” Although the self-tinting glass can add 2% to 3% to the construction cost of a building, Mulpuri claims that owners will save more than enough to make up for it. He says that a building owner can slice his air conditioning bills by as much as 20% plus save on not having to buy window shades.

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The glass, which is made in the company’s factory in Olive Branch, Miss., is already being used by organizations such as NASA, SAP Labs, San Francisco International Airport, The Marine Corps, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts

Dan Pickett, a partner at Moody Nolan, an architecture firm in Columbus, Ohio, is using View’s dynamic glass in two buildings. He believes that the energy savings “will be dramatic.” One of Pickett's projects is a new 300,000 square foot office building for Century Link, a telecommunications firm in Monroe, LA. Says Pickett: "One of the aesthetic reasons we chose the glass is that my client and I objected to the idea of mini blinds in various states of open or closed. View’s glass completely eliminates that issue.”

A lot of companies have tried self-tinting glass and failed -- the technology is tricky to manufacture at scale. But View seems to have the secret sauce, or at least that’s what investors such as Corning, GE, and Khosla Ventures believe, who have contributed to the more than $300 million that the company has raised so far.

And besides, the market potential is huge. Mulpuri calculates that window glass is a 25 billion square foot annual market, and he thinks that in the long run View can capture 10% of that -- an estimated $100 billion opportunity.

As of yet, no other major competitors on are the horizon, but even though View has patents, how long before efficient manufacturers such as the Chinese get into the game?

But until that happens Mulpuri has a clear view ahead.

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