Expert interview with Alain Garnier of Saint-Gobain SageGlass

“SageGlass is not designed for buildings, it is designed for people.”

Expert interview with Alain Garnier of Saint-Gobain SageGlass who explains the innovations and future expectations in the electrochromic smart glass market.

Mohamed Bin Rashid Library, Dubai (image courtesy of Saint-Gobain SageGlass)

About Alain Garnier

Alain Garnier SageGlass

Since mid-2015, 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.

Alain joined the Saint-Gobain group in 2002 to head the newly created Photovoltaics business unit 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 graduated in Engineering from the Ecole Centrale (France) and studied at the Technical University of Berlin (Germany). He received his MSc in Industrial Robotics from Cranfield University (UK), and later graduated from the ESSEC business school executive management program.

Alain is passionate about glass and its use in the building envelope. He is a frequent speaker at conferences, seminars and trade shows.

Thank you for joining us on this Expert Interview, Alain:-

Since 1665, when Saint Gobain was founded as a manufacturer of mirrors, what has been the single biggest disruptive change in the global glass industry?

Saint-Gobain has indeed a long history of continuous innovations, and over 350 years of bringing them to the market. 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 smart glass solution that is a beautiful and cost-effective way to control sunlight without shades or blinds, so the building occupants can manage glare and heat while maintaining a connection to the outdoors.

This is why we say that 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.

In your role as Director of Sales and Business Development at SageGlass in the Middle East, what regional customer trends have stood out the most in the last 5 years?

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. 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 electrochromic 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.

SageGlass seems ideally positioned to allow clients to achieve Green Building compliance. Is this now a ‘must-have’ or still a ‘nice-to-have’ in the construction sector?

There are no doubts that sustainability is a “must-have” for the construction industry, and it is at the heart of the Saint-Gobain activities.

Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and solutions which are key ingredients for 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 and Green Building certifications based on international official standards (ISO, CEN).

Saint-Gobain SageGlass consider all the environmental impacts of its product on its whole lifecycle, to get a full and reliable picture of its environmental impact. We have performed third party assessments demonstrating the contribution of sustainable solutions like SageGlass to green labels such as LEED, BREEAM or WELL standards.

You have overseen some iconic architectural projects in the Middle East, such as the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai. Which project means the most to you personally and why?

Our Saint-Gobain SageGlass dynamic glass is now installed 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
  • and small and large villas throughout the region.

I am very proud of all of them, and my favourite is certainly the Mohammed bin Rashid Library (pictured above) as it is the newest and largest library in the Arab world.

The seven storey building has been designed to resemble an open book sitting on a reading lectern. It is a futuristic building with the latest technologies, including facades fully equipped with Saint-Gobain SageGlass dynamic smart glazings to manage the light, heat and glare that would enter the space.

SageGlass is making the building so comfortable for the readers, visitors and staff alike. As a state-of-the art cultural institution, it preserves the cultural treasures in the form of literature, audio visual media and has a large electronic library database. It will contain 4.5 million books, 1 million audio books and 2 million e-books.

Smart glass in general, and SageGlass in particular, seems a perfect fit for the Smart Cities initiative. What would be the major benefits of integrating SageGlass with IoT technologies?

Thanks to a solution like SageGlass, the building envelope is becoming a connected IoT object. This is creating tremendous opportunities for the building industry.

Commercial real estate owners will be able to better use the space available, and 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 the occupants.

Smart workplace benefits facilitated by intelligent buildings include work process improvement, workflow improvement, internal and external supply chain management optimisation and overall safety. 

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. Saint-Gobain SageGlass is offering solutions that are part of that revolution.

SageGlass at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai

Image Credits: Saint-Gobain SageGlass

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