Smart-tinting glass can have a hugely positive impact on the airport experience for passengers and potentially boost commercial revenues, writes David Yim.
Airports are some of the most visited places in the world, and they are expected to become even busier in the years ahead as they evolve into more than just transit hubs.
The recently-opened Jewel at Singapore’s Changi Airport and planned opening of Hong Kong International Airport’s retail, dining and entertainment venue, SKYCITY, are prime examples of how an ever increasing number of airports are becoming destinations in their own right, and so much more than just places where people go to catch flights.
And with 15 of the world’s 20 fastest-growing major airports for passenger traffic currently located in Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region predicted to account for up to 40% of the world’s international passenger traffic growth between now and 2040, much of the innovation in this area is expected to come from this region.
What is for certain is the fact that with such potential for growth, the design and development of future terminals and the upgrading of existing ones will be a critical element in providing a relaxing experience for passengers.
User centric designs that provide easy access for all will be key, as will the integration and use of new capacity enhancing and passenger enabling technologies.
Airport facades are often designed to be simple and clear with a lack of visual chaos to provide a relaxing experience for passengers. Indeed, creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing airport environment without excessive glare and solar heat gain can make a significant difference to the airport experience.
And, as we all know, passengers that are happy and feel comfortable tend to spend more money at shops and restaurants.
Creating a safe, operationally efficient and user-friendly facility should be the goal and, in this respect, lighting can play an important role in helping relax anxious travellers, define large interior spaces and direct people through terminals. Natural sunlight, known as daylighting, also helps with overcoming jetlag.
As airports are known to have a high energy consumption, to be more environmentally friendly, architectural and maintenance and engineering (M&E) designs need to maximise energy efficiency and minimise maintenance.
To this end, airports will look to technology to become more efficient and reduce their energy costs and, in doing so, improve the airport environment – and subsequently the wellbeing – of both travellers and staff.
Smart-tinting electrochromic glass (EC) can overcome some of these challenges by controlling glare, reducing solar heat gain and bringing in natural light to create a more comfortable experience. It could also improve the operational efficiency for airport staff and enhance safety.
Results from earlier EC glass installations in airports show a rise in passenger spending attributed to the increased comfort gained from effectively managing heat and glare.
In fact, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the US reported a 102% increase in revenue at the restaurant closest to its smart-glass installation and an 83% rise in passenger dwell time at the nearest gate as users were no longer bothered by the sun’s glare on them and their electronic devices.
This makes smart-tinting glass extremely beneficial to shops, bars and restaurants with a tarmac view.
The benefits of a responsive living facade also extend to airport architecture and design. With restrictions on the runway and roadway orientation, airport terminal facades are limited in their positioning and often face direct sunlight. With such technology, airport designers can control glare, reduce solar heat gain and improve energy efficiency while keeping the seamless tarmac view, which passengers love.
Heat gain is of paramount concern with the vast amount of glass facades in airports. EC glass technology reduces the load on the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) system with dynamic real-time response through cloud-based automation to adjust to external weather conditions and internal factors like the number of passengers, airport layout and position of lighting.
With advances in next-generation electrochromic technology, I believe that the glass facades of future airports will look dramatically different than today.
Imagine uninterrupted views of the tarmac, seamless glass facades and healthy amounts of natural daylight without the heat and glare. The future of airports is about to get even brighter.
About the author
David Yim is senior manager for Halio International Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, a joint venture between AGC, the world’s largest flat glass manufacturer, and Kinestral Technologies, Inc, the developer and manufacturer of Halio smart-tinting glass.