Investing in the thermos bottle equivalent for buildings, LuxWall’s ‘Net Zero Glass’
2150 is leading LuxWall’s $33m Series A to launch production of their ‘Net Zero Glass’. LuxWall has designed a next-generation vacuum insulated glass that reduces heating and cooling costs by up to 45% and makes window retrofits simpler.
By Christian Jølck and Shahnaz Khan
When we started looking into windows 18 months ago, the problem was clear but we faced challenges finding the right solutions. Humans spend 90% of their time in buildings, but few are aware that windows are responsible for 25–30% of a building’s heat gain in the summer and 25–30% of heat loss in the winter (source). We had shared the magnitude of this problem in our UNSUSTAINABLE series last year. The challenge has been exacerbated by rising energy prices in Europe and heat waves across continents, the economic and carbon cost of this heat loss can no longer be ignored. The IEA estimates 100 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved annually by replacing single pane windows in the EU alone (source).
We’ve been closely mapping and following the development of new window technologies for the following reasons:
- Rising building energy use. Buildings currently account for one-third of global energy consumption and 15% of direct CO2 emissions (source). Investing in improved HVAC, heat pumps, and other decarbonisation assets is futile without addressing the source of the problem — leaky, old windows. If all windows in Europe were replaced with high-performance glazing by 2030, it would save 3 exajoules of energy annually, which is the equivalent of one-third of Germany’s annual total energy consumption or 522 million barrels of oil (source and source).
- Growing building floor area. We are experiencing the fastest rate of urban growth in human history. The building floor area globally is expected to grow by 415 billion square metres globally by 2050. This represents growth of 57 billion square metres in North America and 37 billion square metres in Western Europe alone — and all of these square metres will be encased by windows (source).
- Larger wall to window ratios. With growing demand for larger window panes in modern buildings, window to wall ratios in commercial buildings are often as high as 75% (source). This growing trend is increasing global demand and production volume of architectural glass. This also creates a larger surface area through which heat can escape a building. What if we had a window which could insulate at the same level as a wall?
- Prevalence of single panes in existing building stock. Single pane windows are commonplace across the world. Approximately 85% of windows in Europe are inefficient (i.e. single pane or uncoated early double pane) and our findings suggest that this number could be higher in regions with less stringent building codes (source). Our research estimates that there are over 180 billion square feet of single pane windows in use globally today. These windows provide minimal protection against the elements and allow up to 40% of a building’s energy to be lost. Investment into new building technologies to mitigate carbon emissions isn’t enough, sealing the building envelopes of existing building stock and minimising their energy wastage through heat loss is critical.
By the end of our deep-dive, we had met several companies and were looking for a solution that would not only be ready for scale up and run by an impressive team, but could:
- Target the existing building stock, i.e. ride the retrofit wave to decarbonize the buildings which will be standing for the next 100 years
- Be seamlessly implemented, i.e. window replacement would be simple and fast
- Significantly increase energy efficiency, while complying with building codes
- Challenge the existing efficiency paradigm of adding more layers of glass which violates the first two requirements above
- Be cost-competitive and CAPEX efficient to scale
Through our market mapping of window and glass technologies we found one, and only one, that satisfied all of the conditions above: LuxWall in Michigan, USA.
Re-inventing windows leveraging technologies from automotive and display manufacturing
LuxWall’s Net Zero Glass technology represents a leap forward in window technology, which has not happened since the introduction of triple pane windows. With a combined 180+ years of experience in the sector, the LuxWall team have developed a vacuum-insulated glass (VIG) pane that acts as a Thermos bottle for a building. Their ‘Net Zero Glass’ represents a step change in insulation delivered in the dimensions of existing building needs — LuxWall’s window panes offer an insulation value of 12 (R-value), compared to a single pane of glass’s insulation value of 1, a double pane window’s insulation value of 2–3.5, and a triple pane’s insulation value of 5–9.7 (source).
LuxWall’s product is 8mm thick (more than 4x thinner than the average triple pane window) and can replace single pane windows in the same frame as the original window in less than 10 minutes. This minimises disruption, retrofit time, and retrofit costs, and accelerates the payback period of an average commercial window retrofit project to 2–6 years compared to 20+ years for a double or triple pane retrofits. With this new investment round, the company expects to scale up production and set up their first full-scale factory after having completed several successful pilots.
LuxWall’s CEO, Scott Thomsen, and his team are veterans of the window, display manufacturing, and automotive industries. Scott was formerly the President and CTO of Guardian Glass and spent over 30 years of experience at Guardian Industries, one of the largest glass and window manufacturers in the world.
One of the reasons we invested in LuxWall was Scott’s unique ability to engineer cutting-edge products from first principles while leading a large scale organisation. We have been following the progress of the company over the last year and have been impressed by the speed and quality of execution. Based on the initial response from our ecosystem of real estate owners across the globe, we are certain that LuxWall will play a big role in the decarbonisation of buildings in the future.
We are proud to be supporting the launch of LuxWall’s game-changing window technology alongside existing investors Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, and new co-investor Khosla Ventures.
For further information on their product, the LuxWall team can be reached via their website.
2150 is a venture capital firm investing in technology companies that seek to sustainably reimagine and reshape the urban environment. 2150’s investment thesis focuses on major unsolved problems across what it calls the ‘Urban Stack’, which comprises every element of the built environment, from the way our cities are designed, constructed and powered, to the way people live, work and are cared for. Find out more at www.2150.vc