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“Solutions that Make Buildings Smarter have the Biggest Opportunity in the Middle East”
By: Alain Garnier
In conversation with Window & Façade Magazine, Alain Garnier briefed about Saint Gobain ’s journey and shared his views about the architectural glass industry in the Middle East.
Please brief us about your Saint-Gobain’s Journey in the Middle East. What is its contribution to the Architectural Glass Industry in the region?
Saint-Gobain SageGlass started its operations in the Middle East in 2015 from Dubai in the UAE. Since then, it has expanded its activities in the whole region, including Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The Middle East is a key region for Saint- Gobain SageGlass as it has a hot and dry climate and thus requires dynamic glass solutions that can adapt to the climatic conditions of the region. In addition, the region is a magnet for worldwide leading architects who find here the possibility to design iconic buildings and want to benefit from the most advanced innovations in architectural glass.
Tell us about your product offerings? What benefits do they offer?
At Saint-Gobain SageGlass, our offering consists of a full range of dynamic glass solutions that can satisfy the most advanced requirements of our customers. Saint-Gobain SageGlass is an intelligent solar control solution for windows, curtain walls, and skylights. It offers an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient alternative to blinds or shades and provides reliable year-round indoor comfort, whilst at the same time ensuring long-term sustainability for the building.
The SageGlass dynamic glass solution can be silently tinted and made fully clear again either automatically or manually at the touch of a button, using the SageGlass App on a tablet, smartphone or Amazon Echo voice activation. SageGlass has an unsurpassed optical and solar performance providing significant energy savings, thermal comfort and, at 1% visible light transmission, glare control and all without losing the view to the outside. When dark, SageGlass blocks 99% of the light and 95% of the heat. It integrates easily into a standard double glazing unit and any framing system.
Name some of the major projects in the Middle East in which your products have been used?
Our Saint-Gobain SageGlass dynamic glass is used in many buildings in the region. Some of the most remarkable ones are: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai, The Swiss International School in Dubai, the Jewel of the Creek building in Dubai, buildings in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, the new HQ of KGOC in Kuwait, as well as small and large villas throughout the region.
What are the major challenges and the biggest opportunities for the glass industry in the Middle East? How do you see the present scenario of the construction industry for the glass segment?
The biggest opportunities in the Middle East construction market are for solutions that make buildings smarter and involve IoT capabilities. Saint-Gobain SageGlass is the pioneer of the world’s smartest electro-chromic glass and is transforming the indoor experience for people by connecting the built and natural environments. An electronically tintable solution like SageGlass controls sunlight to optimise daylight, outdoor views and comfort while preventing glare, fading and overheating without the need for blinds or shades. SageGlass dramatically reduces energy demand and the need for HVAC by blocking the solar heat.
Thanks to a solution like SageGlass, the building envelope is becoming a connected IoT object. This is creating tremendous opportunities for the building industry in the region. Commercial real estate owners will be able to charge higher lease fees for intelligent buildings for a variety of reasons including lower operational costs as well as support for improved safety, comfort, security, and productivity for workers. Smart workplace benefits facilitated by intelligent buildings include work process improvement, workflow improvement, internal and external supply chain management optimisation. Saint-Gobain SageGlass is offering solutions that are part of that revolution.
How has been the glass as a façade or building material evolved? What innovations Saint-Gobain SageGlass has brought in the past few years?
At Saint-Gobain SageGlass, we have developed and introduced to the market a full range of dynamic glass solutions for façades, curtain walls, and skylights. Last year we introduced SageGlass Harmony. It is the newest addition to the Saint- Gobain SageGlass product line and represents the latest innovation in dynamic glazing. Harmony features an elegant visual experience with a continuum of tint levels going from clear to dark vertically along the glass edges. This continuum can be oriented top to bottom or bottom to top, depending on what is needed for heat and glare management.
Saint-Gobain is a well-known name in the glass industry all over the world, what is your USP and success mantra?
SageGlass Harmony: Endless design possibilities
Indeed, Saint-Gobain is well known for its innovations. In fact, 1 product out of 4 sold by Saint- Gobain today did not exist 5 years ago! With Saint- Gobain SageGlass, we offer a dynamic glass solution that it is a beautiful and cost-effective way to control sunlight without shades or blinds, so you can manage glare and heat while maintaining a connection to the outdoors. This is why we say SageGlass is not designed for buildings, it is designed for people. Once you experience SageGlass, you’ll never want to go back to traditional glass. SageGlass controls the sunlight and heat that enter a building, significantly reducing energy consumption while improving people’s comfort and well-being.
Could you please tell us about your manufacturing facility and capacity?
All our Saint-Gobain SageGlass dynamic glass products are produced in our plant in Faribault Minnesota in the USA. We have a large production capacity to supply the market worldwide, and we are looking at possible expansion in other geographies.
What sustainability means to your business? How sustainable your products are?
Sustainability is at the heart of the Saint-Gobain activities. Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and solutions which are key ingredients in the well being of each of us and the future of all. They can be found everywhere in our living places and our daily life. They provide comfort, performance and safety while addressing the challenges of sustainable construction, resource efficiency and climate change. Saint-Gobain’s position is to work with independent, public schemes based on international official standards (ISO, CEN). Saint-Gobain SageGlass consider all the environmental impacts of its product on its whole life cycle, to get a full and reliable picture of its environmental impact.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Dubai
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) are scientific tools that are based on internationally recognised standards. They provide a full and transparent view on our product environmental impacts during its whole life cycle. Saint-Gobain SageGlass has third-party verified LCA and EPD for its solutions that demonstrate its commitment to offering our customers the most sustainable solutions.
What are your goals and plans for the next 4-5 years?
Our goal at Saint-Gobain SageGlass in the Middle East is to continue grow at exponential rates and to address these new market segments from a position of strength throughout the region. We have opened and developed the market for SageGlass dynamic glass in the region, and successfully completed large scale façade projects. We want to increase the adoption of these smart solutions together with all stakeholders in the market, real estate developers, investors, building owners, architects, consultants, contractors, and installers. We all work to satisfy the requirements of the end customer, the building occupant, who is looking for an innovative solution that will constantly improve its well-being and comfort.
Manager Sales & Business Development, Middle East
Alain Garnier is in-charge of developing the SageGlass business for Saint-Gobain in the Middle East, based out of Dubai. His goal is to support continued and sustainable growth for SageGlass dynamic glazing and to address this new market from a position of strength throughout the region. Garnier joined Saint-Gobain group in 2002 to head the newly created business unit Photovoltaic within the flat glass division in Europe and later in the US. In 2012, he took up the challenge of developing the market for SageGlass in Europe, and successfully completed the first large scale projects. Alain Garnier is a graduate in Engineering from the Ecole Centrale (France) and studied at the Technical University of Berlin (Germany). He is passionate about glass and its use in the building envelope. He is a frequent speaker at conferences, seminars and trade shows.