As a kid, playing with glow-in-the-dark toys was far from sophisticated. The “magic” of seeing something transform in the dark was surprising and unexplainable. Today, the same concept is being applied to concrete to create unique and sustainable architectural features.
Companies in Germany and Australia are introducing new technologies that capture energy from the sun during the day and emit light in the evening. Just like glow-in-the-dark toys, the phosphorescent crystals and pavers appear white in sunlight, but glow in blue or green in the evening. According to an article on DesignBuildSource.com, the light emitted is not intensely bright, but provides enough light to delineate emergency exit paths or helicopter pads.
The product has been popular in polished concrete floors, pool decks and countertops, as well as in exterior concrete pavers. As a building architect, I can envision applications in illuminating building entryways, through banding, relief elements or company logos.
This new technology is being touted not only for its architectural possibilities, but also for its sustainable advantages. This form of light cycling—or recycling light—has significant potential for energy savings. One of the innovators of this technology, NightTec of Germany, says that an estimate of building renovations using illuminating materials could save 212 million megawatt-hours each year.
As tilt-up designers for more than 40 years, we’ve seen the constant architectural evolution of the tilt-up product. High-end finishes including exposed aggregate, cast-in brick and block, inlaid stone and granite, and concrete stains, combined with unique applications of panel shape and form, create eye-catching and award-winning designs. With its architectural and sustainable benefits, I can’t help but think that light-cycling concrete may be the next architectural advancement for tilt-up.
This technology, which was once only exciting for children, is now finding sophisticated applications in industrial and commercial spaces. Now, instead of wowing our friends with the latest toy, we can wow our clients with this low maintenance, energy saving architectural treatment.