Architects Dietrich Schwarz and Peter Silber have built three residential block prototypes which are now used for the purpose of examining building-related energy issues. The glass technology used for the facade of the retirement apartments in Domat/Ems was supplied by manufacturer GlassX. Dietrich Schwanz is using newly-founded GlassX AG to distribute and market his innovative compound glass, thereby supplementing their range of noble-gas-filled insulating glass. In addition to salt hydrate-filled glass (»GlassXcrystal«), Dietrich Schwarz, together with ETH Zürich and EPF Lausanne, is carrying out research, as part of the EU project COST C13, into water-flowed insulating glass (»GlassXliquid«), which can draw off, introduce or distribute energy.
The retirement apartments are located on the edge of a housing development within a new row of detached residential houses to south of the historic centre of the village. A total of twenty small apartments have been built next to each other over four floors and facing south-west. To the north-east, wide windows overlook an adjoining arbour. Encompassing the apartments is a generous arrangement of cascade staircases and wide forecourts which the kitchens look out onto through large-sized windows. Living rooms and bedrooms, together with the recessed balconies, form another series of clearly bounded areas that are connected via sliding partitions and which together create a dynamic and interactive connection between the interior and exterior.
The bedroom facade elements, i.e. floorheight translucent glass panels, contain prism glass in order to prevent overheating in summer, with the steep insolation being completely reflected. In winter the flat insolation enters through the prism glass and is absorbed by the salt-hydrate-filled elements behind it, which serve as a storage medium. Salt crystals dissolve at room temperature and at the same time absorb energy which can be released later on. The dissolving process results in the glass panel becoming more translucent, i.e. heat absorption can be both seen and felt. The facade unites both windows and walls by allowing sunshine to pass through it and at the same time storing the energy.