Monday, June 20, 2016

Stained glass windows with solar cells

Glass has been used in buildings for ages: modern cities use glass window panes and glass facades in a big way to bring in some light and a hint of open space in crowded buildings perched along crowded roads. As glass gets used more and more in homes, shops and offices we hear more specialized terms for it like: float glass, tinted glass, toughened glass, glazed glass, laminated glass, photo-chromatic glass and so on.

As glass gets more versatile, its use has been growing, along with the use of steel and concrete. Sometimes this results in marvellous buildings which are architectural marvels.

Some of the most beautiful and well-known buildings in the world, using an all glass exterior are the Louvre Pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris and The Gherkin in London. Both these buildings are phenomenal for the natural light they let in, and the light patterns they create.

I came across one example however which has been a pioneer in blending the use of glass with technology and art.

Churches have used stained glass windows, and panelled ceilings to both showcase art, as well as create an ambience of light, harmony and beauty, for a long time.

The Cathedral of the Holy Family, in Saskatoon, Canada, has an unique glass installation in its spire. It has solar panels integrated into the glass windows. The windows themselves are large, and more than 1000 solar cells have been embedded into them. This has been done in an integrated and aesthetic composition.

The design was conceived and executed by artist Sarah Hall, who specializes in large scale art glass installations, and has been an innovator in using technology to make the designs more environment friendly. Each of the solar cells has been hand soldered and embedded into the panes.

We get a lot of sunshine in India pretty much throughout the year, and are currently reeling under maximum temperatures of 46-47 degrees Centigrade! We also have a huge amount of construction going on at all times in a number of new and growing cities. Some of them do have an aesthetic glass facade.

Hope some of the builders would latch on to this wonderful idea. They could create awesome installations as well as save on electricity!