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Brighter shading for a brighter future
Tuesday, 14 April 2015 12:39

Umbra says that intelligent shading solutions are a vital part of a building’s performance design

The sun is the source of life on this planet. Without it, all life forms would soon cease to exist. Man has made use of this source of light and heat from earliest times. Today, modern buildings are designed to maximise this free energy.

Glass seems to be an ever-increasing proportion of a building’s fabric. Besides reducing energy costs, natural light and views to the outside bring proven benefits to people’s wellbeing and productivity. However, that same wellbeing and productivity is threatened if the incoming heat gain and glare is not properly managed.

So maximising solar energy is only part of the challenge. What about managing it?

Intelligent lighting control systems can respond to ambient light levels and turn off luminaires that are not needed. The energy and cost savings that can be achieved from this are astonishing.
Heat gain can be managed to an extent by HVAC systems, although these are costly to install and run. However, they are ineffective where people are subjected to direct radiant heat from the sun.
Problems of visible glare and direct heat gain can only be solved with an appropriate shading device.

Fixed shading devices such as brise soleil or tinted glass are only a partial solution. They can cut out valuable natural light in dull weather, leading to increased energy usage from artificial lighting. In bright conditions they will not provide sufficient shading, leading to unpleasant and unsafe working conditions.

The sun is dynamic, following a different path across our sky for every day of the year. Its effect on a building varies according to latitude, direction of facing and surroundings. Clearly this can only be managed with a dynamic solution.

Adjustable shading devices are therefore essential. The skill is in finding the optimum solution to balance sometimes conflicting requirements and achieve a shading system that works harmoniously with the other building services. This will maximise and manage the incoming solar energy.

The ultimate outcome is dependent on the system installed and the way it is operated. For optimum results the shading devices should be automated and integrated with a Building Management System (BMS). Research shows that building occupants will close or lower a shading device when subjected to heat gain or glare, but will often not open or raise it when the sun has moved on. This leads to the investment in intelligent lighting controls being wasted, as lights will come on when they should be off with blinds opened.

The case for an intelligent shading system is as clear as daylight! Without it, investment in lighting controls and HVAC may be wasted and expected energy savings may not be realised.

Window blinds are no longer an ‘optional fixtures and fittings’ add-on. They are an integral part of a building’s performance design.  Whether you are a designer, contractor or building owner, Umbra Shading has the experience and expertise to provide a ‘brighter’ shading solution.




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