Brise soleil can fix your overheating problems

The weather in the UK isn’t exactly consistent, and that can cause energy problems for architects and office buildings. In countries where the weather is more stable, it’s easier to come up with ways for the heat of the sun to be either used productively or reduced, whichever is most appropriate for the country in question. In the UK, however, the temperature fluctuates significantly to either side of the comfortable zone – down to -5 or -10 in a serious winter, up to +30 or +35 degrees in a hot summer. Since ‘room temperature’ is around the middle of this range, it means that there might be a difference of 20 degrees one way or another. Having broad windows, as there are in many office buildings, can make a significant difference to the temperature of an office or other work environment. In the summer, the big windows that make the most of the winter sun can make an area uncomfortably hot. A brise soleil can fix this problem. Glass louvres can work both ways, allowing in winter sun but shading from the summer heat. Thus such external louvres might be a good solution to the heating and cooling problems of the modern office building.

There are a wide range of solutions on offer. The simplest kind of brise soleil (which is just French for ‘sun breaker’) comprise a fixed barrier that protects a window from the sun. Even these, however, can be relatively sophisticated. Careful placing means that they can still let in low-angle winter sun, providing a degree of passive solar heating. In the summer, particularly around midday when the sun is at its hottest, its placing above the windows means that they are shielded from high-angle light. Other types are much more sophisticated, incorporating mechanical elements that tailor the degree of shade to the exact requirements of the day and building. Naturally, these are more complicated and therefore more expensive. Louvres might be incorporated to help filter out the summer sun.

Thus there are a number of architectural solutions that allow a high level of flexibility in a building’s heating and cooling requirements, even in a climate such as the UK’s. Heating and cooling needs in winter and summer respectively can be in tension, but judicious use of the brise soleil and external louvres can allow for the best of both worlds. Glass louvres are particularly effective in ensuring that the vagaries of the seasons can be used to work in your favour.

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