When it comes to offices in skyscrapers, the higher the floor, the higher the rent. One study of nearly 2,000 buildings found that every floor above the second was 0.6% more expensive than the one below it. That rate increases even more sharply above the 40th floor. One big part of this is the view that higher floors have. And whether they realize it or not, the occupants of higher floors are often being robbed of this very expensive amenity by their own window shading.
“If you’re in a skyscraper, you’re paying for a view. But when you have blinds and conventional glass, you don’t actually have your view because your blinds tend to be down most of the time,” says Rahul Bammi, chief business officer of View, a company that produces self-tinting and app-controlled windows.
Manufactured with tiny layers of metal oxide within the glass that darken when a small amount of electricity is applied, the windows have four levels of tint that can allow office buildings to let in natural light without overwhelming workers with brightness and glare. Window shades and blinds are no longer necessary when View’s glass is installed, according to Bammi. And because they allow more natural light and reflect more radiation, View’s windows reduce lighting and HVAC use in buildings, generating 10% reductions in energy use annually. “We eliminate blinds, we get more natural light into the building, you get better views of the outdoors, and you just have a better experience of the building as a human,” Bammi says.
Taking down the blinds may sound trivial, but window shading can get expensive, running from around $3 per square foot for simple Venetian blinds to more than $40 per square foot for motorized roller systems.
View’s windows aren’t cheap either. The cost to buy and install them is about $55 per square foot, according to the company. But when combined with the savings from not having to buy window shading systems, and lower electricity costs, the price can be almost the same. Overall, using View adds about 1% to the total cost of a building project, according to Bammi—a premium that many landlords can cover by charging slightly higher rents.
“We look at it as no different than we’re going to pay a premium for a nicer lobby,” says George Tsapelas, vice president of development at Taconic Partners, a developer based in New York that recently advised on a project that installed View’s self-tinting windows in a 27-story office redevelopment in Manhattan. “We do it because that’s what a tenant wants, and that’s what’s going to help us lease a building faster, and at a higher rent.”
View’s Bammi says the benefits are more than just financial. He points to studies that the company has commissioned showing that workers in offices with View windows report fewer headaches, less drowsiness, and less eye strain than workers in buildings with conventional windows. Plus, View’s windows are smart, internet-connected devices, and the company offers a built-in operating system to connect them with other smart devices and building management tools. “Every window is IP addressable, is powered, and has data,” he says. “As buildings get smarter, people will plug in more and more smart devices that make the building operate better. You’re essentially getting a smart building network for free.”
Bammi says View’s windows have been installed in roughly 23 million square feet of buildings, and the company has commitments for installations in another 50 million square feet of space. For all their benefits, futuristic self-tinting windows aren’t likely to fully replace simpler and cheaper conventional windows and old-fashioned blinds. But some developers and building owners recognize at least some advantages.
“I don’t think there’s the expectation from a development perspective that the cost is ever going to come down to be in line with the traditional blinds,” says Tsapelas. “But we feel there are certain things worth paying for and I think this is one of those because it really helps us to stand out in the market.”
And when no blinds are necessary, those skyscraper views could become even more valuable.