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Miller Ingenuity Inspires Manufacturing Innovation With SageGlass Dynamic Glass
Minneapolis — Sept. 9, 2014 – Minnesota-based manufacturer Miller Ingenuity is using electronically tintable SageGlass, a product of Saint-Gobain, to create a unique think-tank environment where employees and customers can drive new product innovation and problem solving.
The company, which manufactures products for the rail industry, recently opened its “Creation Station” – a 1,200-square-foot, state-of-the-art collaborative space where everyone in the company and community can brainstorm new ways of doing business. The Google-like campus within the factory is the first of its kind in Minnesota, as well as for the U.S. manufacturing industry.
A key design objective of the Creation Station was to create a relaxing, inspirational environment in which people could better conceptualize solutions that meet the current and emerging needs of the industry. The company believes that great ideas can spring from anyone in the company and community, not just the engineering department.
Consequently, the company enlisted its employees to lead the planning and design of the Creation Station. Providing abundant daylight, expansive outdoor views of nature, and a way to “bring the outdoors in” was critical to designing the right kind of creative space.
To that end, the company installed a large, floor-to-ceiling wall of SageGlass, which maximizes daylight and outdoor views in buildings while controlling glare and heat gain. The glass can darken or clear manually or automatically to save energy and help keep building occupants continuously comfortable.
For the project, Miller Ingenuity selected SageGlass LightZone, the world’s first dynamic glass window system that enables variable tint zones within a single pane of glass. SageGlass LightZone allows the company to change the tint in three discrete sections in one pane of SageGlass, and each section can be set to any available tint level. This variability provides for even greater flexibility in managing solar heat gain and glare. With multiple zones in a single window, factors such as the changing angles of the sun throughout the day and seasons can be better managed to optimize daylight and preserve the outdoor view.
“Dynamic glass solved all the lighting and sun control problems of the south-facing wall,” said Randy Skarlupka, vice president of operations at Miller Ingenuity. “It allowed us to bring the outside in without having to block the view with shades when the sun is harshest. We also wanted something simple and automatic, so SageGlass’ ability to automatically change tint throughout the day was a big benefit. And we wanted the ability to darken the room on demand for presentations or when using our electronic smart board to capture ideas,” he said.
Sustainability was important, too. The company wanted to achieve maximum energy efficiency in the air-conditioned space. SageGlass allowed the company to reduce HVAC energy load when heat gain from the sun was most problematic.
“The Creation Station also serves as a showcase environment to help demonstrate the company’s heritage of innovation, and serves as a high-tech think-tank resource for other organizations in the community to use during off-business hours. Consequently, we wanted to incorporate the most cutting-edge technology throughout the design,” Skarlupka said.
“We looked at the business landscape where billion-dollar technology companies, such as Google and Apple, dominate the headlines and are revered for their creativity-supporting cultures and thought – our employees are just as forward-thinking,” said Steve Blue, Miller Ingenuity president and CEO. “If we want to keep manufacturing jobs in America, we need to invest in our employees and encourage them not to be afraid to try something new. We always need to out-think, out-innovate and out-perform the competition.”