The Glass House reveals the latest in Nano technology research from around the world. It will showcase both commercially-available products, and prototypes of recent research into materials science, to demonstrate the ways in which these products can:

  1. Enhance our lifestyle;
  2. Improve natural lighting, thermal and acoustic performance of buildings;
  3. Result in lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of buildings.

The basis of the Glass House was to design an environmentally responsive, ultra-low energy living space incorporating state-of-the-art material technologies.

Why use Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is an emerging area of science that is concerned with the control of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules.

There are a wide range of Nanotechnologies, with many current and potential applications. With molecular control of matter we can make smart materials that change their properties in response to some stimulus from their surroundings – including instructions from people. Some smart materials might even function like microscale factories for the production of other materials or devices.

A useful way to think about Nanotechnology is not to reach for some catch-all definition but to examine the ways in which the technologies which exploit size effects are manifesting themselves. That is, we can list the sorts of products and processes that are starting to use nanoscale control of matter.

Some current Nanotechnologies and their applications include:

Smart materials

Smart materials have almost endless potential – they can change in response to their surroundings in ways that natural (dumb materials) don’t. Some materials could have tiny computers embedded in them which can send signals – like tyres that tell your car when the tread is wearing unevenly, or paint that alerts your house of a gas leak or an electrical fault. Really smart materials could change colour on command, or generate electricity during the day and make it available at night. Imagine coatings that refuse to become dirty, and heal themselves when damaged!

Nanopowders

Nanopowders are used for clear UV absorbing sunscreens (available on the market now), paints and coatings of very high hardness and density.

Carbon nanotechologies

Nanotubes and fullerenes can be used for a wide variety of applications including drug delivery, hydrogen storage, molecular transistors, smart textiles, high-temperature superconductors and nanofluidics.

Molecular electronics

The future of computing could lie with transistor arrays that are not made using semiconductors but with molecules that act as switches. Molecular electronic devices may be useful in environments where semiconductors cannot go – such as biological environments.

The UTS nanotechnology website at www.nano.uts.edu.au is an excellent source of information about these technologies.

The Glass House will include displays of both physical materials and computer-generated simulations which explain in simple, tangible terms how nano-engineered coatings and materials could work in a domestic situation.

It will show how these coatings can alter reflection, absorption and transmission of light through and off surfaces by selective wavelength control of the materials attributes. These coatings can therefore alter the properties of building materials as we know them.

You can find out more about Nanotechnology at www.nano.uts.edu.au
The Glass House will exhibit both physical materials and computer-generated simulations which explain in simple, tangible terms how nano-engineered coatings and materials could work in a domestic situation.

It will show how these coatings can alter reflection, absorption and transmission of light through and off surfaces by selective wavelength control of the materials attributes. These coatings can therefore alter the properties of building materials as we know them.

Why choose glass?

Australians prefer to open up their buildings to make use of as much daylight, views and indoor/ outdoor flow as possible. In the past this has created a trade-off, with potentially high costs for heating in winter and cooling in summer. However, with modern coating technology applied on glass, things have changed considerably. We can now use high-tech products to alter the environmental implications of large areas of glass.

The Glass House will demonstrate recent advances in glass technology and engineering by Pilkington and G.James to show:

  • Spectrally-selective qualities,
  • Improved thermal performance, &
  • Self cleaning attributes of glass.

The Glass House features a number of different glass types. One of these is Pilkington Activ glass, which has a transparent exterior coating using nanotechnology that uses the forces of nature – natural ultraviolet light and rain – to keep the glass free from organic dirt. It is laminated to provide safety, noise reduction and fading control.

The secret of this self-cleaning glass is its special nanotechnology coating, which works in two stages:

  1.  Using a ‘photocatalytic’ process, the coating reacts with ultra-violet rays from natural daylight to break down and disintegrate organic dirt.
  2.  The second part of the process happens when rain or water hits the glass. Because it is ‘hydrophilic’, instead of forming droplets the water spreads evenly over the surface, and as it runs off takes the dirt with it.

Compared with conventional glass, the water dries off very quickly and does not leave unsightly ‘drying spots’.

The coating works continuously, with dirt being washed away whenever it rains, or it can be lightly hosed down during long dry periods. The coating needs only a small amount of UV radiation to activate the coating – so it works on overcast days.

How it all goes together:

The Glass House will arrive on two trucks carrying 3 sections of 6.4×2.4m panels each weighing around 5 tons.

The house is fully prefabricated, and made almost entirely of glass:

  • The roof is 16mm thick toughened glass with a frit, or pattern, etched in the glass to reduce solar gain
  • The walls are 16mm single glazing
  • One side of the house will feature self-cleaning Pilkington Activ glass, with the remaining walls of Pilkington Solar E Plus and Low E
  • A glass floor 30mm thick will comprise two layers of 12mm, and a sacrificial 16mm layer on top.

Timber floors in the entry are treated with Nanotechnology coatings to protect them from fading under ultraviolet light.

The steel portal frames might be treated with nanotechonology coatings in the future, changing their performance as well.

Environmental features

We all like our houses to open up to the environment and be flooded with natural light. In this past, this has led to a tradeoff with potentially high costs for heating and cooling. The Glass House demonstrates how recent advances in glass technology can create an environmentally responsive, low-energy design.

Environmental features include:

  • Photovoltaic cells mounted on the roof generate electricity. These are
  • angled like louvres to moderate solar penetration into the building
  • Pilkington Solar E Plus and Low E glass are low-emissivity, reducing unwanted heat gain in summer but are warm to touch in winter
  • The west and east elevations include glass louvres, which create natural airflow to cool the building
  • You could also add roller screens with Nanotechnology-embedded fabrics to block further sunlight.

Historical or theoretical precedents

Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1945) was a distinctive pavilion that hovered above a grass lawn. It was made up of just two planes – a roof and floor – enclosed in glass and supported by eight steel columns. This transparent box was one of the most radically minimalist houses ever designed. Four years later US architect Phillip Johnson designed a Glass House in Connecticut.

Like its predecessors, the Glass House of the Future challenges the materiality of architecture; and the use of structure, technology and design for housing in the twenty-first century.

About UTS and Nanotechnology

The UTS Institute for Nanotechnology is involved with a range of research in this field and the Glass House is its flagship project. It will act as an educational tool – raising public awareness of the implications of this new technology. It will also allow newly developed Nanotechnologies to be applied, showcased and trialed in an actual building.