Saint-Gobain Glass has acquired 50% of the equity of the U.S. firm SAGE Electrochromics for the large-scale manufacture of electrochromic glass.

The technology helps commercial real estate owners and investors by reducing the amount of energy consumed for air conditioning, heating and lighting, according to the two companies. For architects, it creates an alternative to the use of mechanical window shades and blinds.

Activated by a low-voltage current, electrochromic glass adapts its light and heat transmission to the level of sunlight and the building's temperature.

Saint-Gobain Glass and SAGE will build a large-scale electrochromic glass plant in Faribault, Minn. The project, which started this month, will cost about $135 million and is expected to promote the use of electrochromic technology worldwide.

The new plant will have an annual production capacity of more than 4 million sq. ft. of electrochromic glass in varying sizes.

"This alliance heralds the start of a new revolution in the habitat glass industry," says Jean-Pierre Floris, senior vice president of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain and president of the innovative materials sector. "Thanks to the partnership between Saint-Gobain and SAGE, we are providing electrochromic advanced glazing that will be environmentally significant and affordable.”

Until now, electrochromic glass has been an emerging product, not widely deployed due to cost and manufacturing challenges, says John Van Dine, CEO of Sage. “This alliance will trigger economies of scale, making possible a new era of high-performance windows that are both eco-friendly and economically sound."

SAGE will remain an independent company and continue to market its SageGlass products in North America where they are used in hundreds of commercial, institutional and residential buildings. Saint-Gobain will market SageGlass under the Quantum Glass brand in Europe.

Saint-Gobain Corp., based in Valley Forge, Pa., is the holding company for Saint-Gobain's U.S. and Canadian operations.