Case History: Sell Performance Solutions
The latest trends for window treatments in commercial applications are always changing. Luckily, choices are always evolving, too. Whatever your client’s design needs are—color, style, or texture—there is a perfect match as manufacturers continually introduce new fabrics according to current design trends. Shades also combine style with function to provide the ideal shading solution for any space.
The process of choosing a shade fabric can be overwhelming, but should not be overlooked. Installing the right window treatment for a space is a critical decision for any project. When choosing fabrics for your application, don’t begin by selecting a fabric based on style alone, but also consider how it will function in a space. Lutron Electronics offers guidelines on how to narrow down choices and facilitate the specification process.
When selecting a shade for your next commercial project, there is one question to ask before you begin: What activities will be occurring in the space?
Rooms are used for different functions, therefore requiring different levels of lighting. Each application also has its own unique requirements. Using solar performance metrics narrows down the type of shade that would best serve the needs for an application.
To achieve optimum solar performance, consider the following elements:
• Visual Transmittance—Evaluate the level of visual transmittance, which is the percentage of glare-causing visual light that passes through the fabric. For instance, to control glare and enhance visual comfort, consider a fabric with a low visual transmittance (five percent openness factor or less). The openness factor refers to the ratio of fabric to open space in a weave. A lower openness factor has a tighter fabric weave.
Glare reduction is essential in a space with computer screens that face windows. Employees can control glare while maintaining a view to the outside and enjoying the benefits of daylight.
• Solar Transmittance—UV rays damage furnishings. If your application has high-end furnishings or artwork, a shade helps to protect them from fading or discoloration. Find a fabric with a low solar transmittance because it reduces the amount of daylight passing through a fabric. For example, a solar transmittance level of 14 percent indicates a glare reduction of 86 percent.
To maximize protection, a controllable shading system can be programmed to automatically lower or raise shades during certain times of the day. Furthermore, different solar transmittances may be necessary depending on the direction a window faces. East- and west-facing windows will need more UV protection than a north- or south-facing window.
• Optimize energy efficiency—Reducing solar heat gain in a space can transfer into cost savings by reducing cooling costs of a space. To reduce solar heat gain, choose a fabric with a high solar reflectance, which is the percentage of solar radiation reflected by a fabric. Solar reflective fabric reflects daylight. Select a dual-sided fabric, which has a lighter colored backing to reflect more daylight instead of a darker color that would absorb more heat.
• Multi-purpose rooms—In rooms that are utilized for different activities, more than one shade may be required. Applying a dual-mounted shading system allows the user to easily change the shades depending on a particular need. For example, during an office video presentation, the focal point should be on the presentation. A blackout fabric will eliminate all glare on the television or projector screen to enhance the presentation.
Afterward, the room should easily transition back into a well-lit working environment with a sheer or privacy fabric that allows light to penetrate the space. With a Lutron shading system, dual-mounted shades move in alignment with each other and at a near silent level as to not disturb the meeting.
• Aesthetics—Shades no longer are only incorporated into a space for function, but also for their ability to enhance the design of a space. Depending on the building, it may be important to match the shades on the outer façade of the building. For example, many high-rise buildings have a commercial space on the street level with luxury condominiums above. For aesthetic reasons, matching the design and keeping them aligned could be an important detail not to miss.
• Fabric Categories—Fabrics are categorized into three general groups: sheer, dim-out and blackout. Basic rules to remember are that a sheer fabric allows sunlight to filter through, a dim-out fabric reduces the amount of light and the view, and blackout eliminates all light.
Lutron has broken these three categories into families to facilitate the selection process when trying to find the best shade for a space. Its sheer category is offered in SheerShade®, designer, or dual-sided. Dim-out fabrics can be described as either privacy or translucent depending on the view that is seen through the fabric. Both allow light to penetrate, but only translucent fabrics allow the sight of shapes and shadows to be perceptible. Even blackout fabrics have a versatile selection of either standard or dual-sided.
• Sustainable Fabrics—A major consideration in building design is its environmental impact. Not only do shades reduce solar heat gain, thereby reducing cooling costs of a space, but many sustainable fabric options also are available. A number of Lutron fabrics are either PVC-free or 100 percent recycled. It also offers fabrics that have been certified by a third-party organization to be safe for indoor air quality. Both GreenGuard® and the Oeko-Tex® Association test furnishings to ensure that there are minimal or non-existent levels of contaminants and deem them safe.
For buildings seeking LEED® certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), utilizing automated window treatments or sustainable fabrics can help contribute toward LEED points. All points are contingent based on different projects, so a USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) representative must be involved during the project.
By assessing your project’s needs step-by-step and asking simple questions of what, when, how and by whom, the right fabric and shading solution becomes less overwhelming.
Steve Pancheri is global fabric manager for Lutron Electronics Company, Inc., www.lugron.com/fabrics.