Let’s face it, waiting for your flight is not a fun way to spend your time. Between the tedious lines and processes at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint, and the prospect of being crammed into ever-shrinking airplane seats with over a hundred strangers for the next few hours, the wait in hold rooms can become a downright miserable experience.
After making it through security, most of us head to our gate to verify the location and check our flight’s status. We then often proceed to get something to eat or drink. At some point, you must head back to your gate, but what drives your decision to do so? Some obvious factors behind this decision are power and data connectivity, convenience of work surfaces, comfortable seating, and availability of a quiet, personal space.
However, there’s an additional, hidden component that helps drive our desire to spend time at our gate: lighting. Most hold room occupants spend their time reading. We occasionally read from paper media, but now more commonly, the screens of our electronic devices. Because of this, proper lighting is subconsciously a priority in choosing a seat for the next hour or so.
Due to their large footprint, most hold rooms are designed with tall ceiling heights to avoid feeling cramped. To further open up these spaces, passengers are provided with views of the outdoors: aircraft, apron, taxiway, and preferably a mentally relaxing view of nature beyond. However, because of the increased ceiling heights, these views include large expanses of glass.
As the orientation of airports are predetermined by the layout of their runways, many airports’ hold rooms have east and west facing glass. Such rooms are subjected to excessive solar glare in the mornings and evenings respectively. This creates an uncomfortable environment for reading, especially from electronic devices. To reduce this glare, airports have incorporated vertical fins, roller blinds, and glass frits with limited success. Vertical fins reduce the views and make window washing very difficult. Motorized roller blinds are more effective but are difficult to maintain. While frits control direct glare, they need to spread across the entire pane of glass to be effective, thus blocking our views.
It’s been my experience that the most effective way to control glare in these spaces is by using electrochromic (EC) glass. With capability to adjust its light transmissions between almost zero and 90%, EC glass actively manages the levels of sunlight throughout the day. This retains the biophilic benefits of the views and natural lighting, while eliminating the glare. Once a cutting-edge technology, its mainstream use and availability, from now multiple manufacturers, has decreased their cost and increased their reliability. By dramatically controlling the amount of sunlight passing through the glass, hold rooms of any orientation can become comfortable and stress-reducing spaces for waiting passengers, regardless of the time of day or weather.
EC glass also provides gate agents clearer views of their computer screens, travelers clearer views of wayfinding and flight information displays, and improved visual images from security cameras. It also reduces the UV exposure to fabrics and furniture, increasing the longevity of their looks and wear.
By installing EC glass, airports can create both comfortable and energy-efficient, glare-free hold rooms that passengers can actually enjoy.