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 “bringing the outdoors in” were 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.”
About Miller Ingenuity
Miller Ingenuity is a transportation component solutions company based in Winona, MN. For more than 60 years, thanks to its founder “Rudy” Miller who invented a product that saved revolutionized rail transport, the company has demonstrated the ability to conceptualize, design, produce and deliver transportation parts that meet the current and emerging needs of the industry. Miller Ingenuity’s continued innovations are driven by three core motivations: to take on customer challenges, to think more creatively about solutions, and to be everyday heroes to their customers.
SageGlass®, a product of Saint-Gobain, is advanced dynamic glass that can be electronically tinted or cleared to optimize daylight and improve the human experience in buildings. SageGlass manages the sunlight and heat that enter a building, significantly reducing energy consumption while improving people’s comfort and well-being. It can reduce a building’s cooling load by 20% and HVAC requirements up to 30%. It is a smarter, more elegant solution than conventional sun controls such as mechanical window shades, blinds and louvers. With SageGlass you can control sunlight and glare without shades or blinds while maintaining the view and connection to the outdoors. SageGlass is manufactured in Faribault, MN, in the heart of “the Silicon Valley of the window industry,” and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saint-Gobain of Paris, the world’s largest building materials company.
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Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, has its North American headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. As the world leader in sustainable habitat, Saint-Gobain is committed to inventing solutions to help professionals and communities around the world build and renovate comfortable, healthy, economical and energy-efficient buildings. The company has more than 265 locations in North America and approximately 15,000 employees. In the United States and Canada, Saint-Gobain reported sales of approximately $7.9 billion in 2013.
Recognized as a 2009 and 2010 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Saint-Gobain earned the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award, the highest level of recognition for outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. For more information about Saint-Gobain in North America, visit www.saint-gobain-northamerica.com and connect with the company on Facebook and Twitter.
Located in 64 countries and headquartered in Paris with nearly 195,000 employees, Saint-Gobain, the world leader in the habitat and construction markets, designs, manufactures and distributes building materials, providing innovative solutions to meet growing demand for energy efficiency and for environmental protection. For more information about Saint-Gobain, please visit www.saint-gobain.com.