Expert Interview with Bruce Nicol - Head of Global Design for Merck Eyrise

We are joined today by Bruce Nicol, RIBA-certified Architect and Head of Global Design for Merck Eyrise Liquid Crystal Windows

Bruce, could you tell us what excites you the most about your work at Merck Eyrise?

There are many aspects to eyrise that captivate my interest as someone from the glass innovation world.

As a product, eyrise really is the next generation of dynamic glass. It’s the only unique tailor-made dynamic glazing solution in the market.

We have a great team at eyrise that studies each project as it comes in, so that the proposal to the design team offers the best solution possible, taking into account the design intent, location, climate loads and overall performance.

From a performance standpoint, eyrise can be seen as a real game changer. The 1-second switching speed allows real time control of heat and glare on demand, when needed, whilst remaining colour neutral in all states.

All this control occurs within the Liquid Crystal, allowing an interference-free connection with external views. It remains fully transparent under all conditions. This promotes the ideal health and comfort conditions to increase well-being and hence efficiency for all concerned.

The instant switching speed opens up many possibilities in terms of control mechanisms. For example, by voice, an app, a basic switch or a sensor, the glass can automatically tint whenever needed without even being noticed. The originally static façade becomes truly dynamic and becomes a screen where every window is a pixel, giving the freedom to create a new façade look every day.

Additional excitement stems from a company that is coming into the glass world from the left side of the field, so to speak. Whilst Merck have a long history with Liquid Crystal technology going back well over 100 years, as a company it is not well known for facade innovation.

Eyrise now brings this long-standing knowledge base directly to the architectural world at the right time when we are all looking for comfort and well-being in the lives we spend indoors, as well as the high levels of energy efficiency that we need to think about for future proofing the world we live in.

This is actually why eyrise is the first choice material to consider when it comes to Green Buildings certifications such as WELL or LEED.

Merck’s company ethic is one that aims at developing innovations for a better living. This is fully demonstrated by bringing eyrise® to the market.

 

Of all the smart glass projects you have completed to date, which stands out the most, and why?

The quick up-take in the eyrise technology demonstrates that the architectural community really has been searching for such a breakthrough in glass innovation.

Requests to look at projects are now coming into our team from around the world. Whilst many projects spring to mind, the Niemeyer Sphere in Leipzig really is one of those unique chances that arrive now and again to fire the imagination and use everything we know to realise the design intent of the architect. Here we have a design from one of the true masters of the Modern Movement, Oscar Niemeyer, an icon of 20th century design.

Having worked around the world on highly influential projects like Brasilia, the UN Buildings in NYC, collaborating with Le Corbusier, Niemeyer lived and worked well past his 100th year, still designing and delivering projects.

When I initially went to meet the client, Ludwig Koehne and his executive architect Harald Kern, they were struggling with the issue of how to provide shade to a complex spherical glass structure without adding shading devices and compromising the architecture.

Playing with the eyrise sample we were able to devise a way that allowed the complex geometry requirements of the glass to be kept, whilst setting the eyrise technology to switch independently across the 3D geometry formed by the sphere, and allowing maximum shading with 100% transparency whilst remaining completely colour-neutral.

Additionally we have used sun-tracking programming so the eyrise will change independently from its neighbouring unit in direct relationship to where the sun is above Leipzig at any time of day and year.  

Of course the whole system can be manually over-ridden as we have seen the building owner wanting to be more playful with the switching effect. This brings in a whole discussion on emotion responses achieved as well as overall improved performance. Very interesting all round on many levels.

 

Being an architect yourself, what do you think is needed to bring smart glass into mainstream architectural projects?

I think it has already begun to gather pace. There has always been a desire from architects to achieve the “Holy Grail” for façade design.

High light transmission and low g-value (solar shading). Of course there are many ways to try and achieve this. But most have compromises along the way. Coatings are static and the ones with the better g-values are still darkish. More complex systems like Closed Cavity Facades still utilises physical shading devices somewhere which block transparency and the connection to the outside world.

Eyrise allows optimal conditions to prevail for the majority of the year. The ability to constantly change quickly, and work in conjunction with other aspects of the building e.g. lighting, heating and cooling, means a glass façade can still be a glass facade.

It’s still fully transparent whilst doing everything it needs to do to provide the necessary comfort requirements for occupants. So as we build more eyrise facades there becomes more awareness and acceptance.

We already see this snowballing effect with the increased requests we are getting from the key architects and building owners looking at this innovation and the benefits it brings.

 

Merck eyrise liquid crystal has impressive characteristics. How does eyrise compare to PDLC solutions?

You’re talking about the privacy product, eyrise® i350 2nd products. That’s another beauty of the technology, by changing the type of LC in eyrise, you completely change the properties and characteristics of the products.

The eyrise portfolio is composed of solar protection (eyrise® s350) and privacy (eyrise® i350) products.

Both of them offer ‘lightwellness’ to occupants, thanks to the fast switching speed, transparency and colour neutrality.

It’s important to point out that eyrise is not a PDLC. It is not a film that is laminated into glass.

This, in the case of our privacy product, is immediately apparent when seen switching. The haze of the typical laminated PDLC product is no longer visible with the eyrise privacy product. More pronounced when viewed obliquely when true clarity is really highlighted. Same with the solar control product eyrise s350. The product is full transparent and clear at all times and viewing angles.

 

What can the smart glass industry expect from Merck eyrise in the near future?

As we continue to win projects the immediate impact will be there to see for all. More than 8 projects have being finished that people can visit, virtually or otherwise, and directly experience eyrise in Germany, Switzerland, France, UK and North America.

On top of that, we have just completely refurbished eyrise HQ in Veldhoven with eyrise façade and upgraded our offices and meeting rooms with eyrise privacy.

Seeing really is believing. We are happy to welcome future clients so they can play with the eyrise app to see how truly reactive eyrise can be. Also visitors can directly experience the new innovations showcased on site which are currently in development, such as multi-segmented windows. 

We are just entering a phase where the full integration of eyrise into the smart building is now a reality. That means through interactivity on many levels, the whole building performance can work together. Optimal system control can lead to optimal energy efficiency.

Maybe more importantly we are just starting to see real results of the personal benefits from living and working in naturally-lit spaces which remain comfortable to work and live our lives in.

In the short term, eyrise has already come a long way with much more happening with each and every project. Long term, we are lucky to sit within a 350 year old company who continue to be at the cutting edge of technical developments.

Think where your phone was 10 years ago. Merck have been part of that transition as eyrise is starting to be a part of similar changes in the architectural world.

 

About Bruce Nicol

Bruce-Nicol-Merck

Bruce Nicol is an Architect based in Berlin. He is the Head of Global Design at Merck Window Technologies. Having qualified at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow, Bruce was immediately immersed in glass technology and innovations. Having an extended sabbatical in the glass industry, where he supported the glass design on major projects worldwide, he is now once again at the cutting edge of glass innovation, engaging with all sides of the construction process, bringing eyrise dynamic glass solutions to forward thinkers in the global community.

Eyrise is here to help establish well being and a comfort level which respects everyone. Lightwellness for all.

Eyrise glass at Veldhoven Headquarters (NL)

Image Credits: Eyrise

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