How green shades can make clients feel better and improve your business.
When Dorothy reaches Oz for the first time, I remember seeing the residents of the Emerald City wearing green sunglasses. This, I assume, was to enhance the emerald effect of the great green city.
Oz, of course was an illusion as was their dubious leader: The Wizard of Oz. Today, we are about to put on our own pair of green shades and look out upon a new movement that is about to sweep the globe. The illusion of Oz is being replaced with substance, an awakening to reality, but a new reality and a new beginning.
Green building is the implementation of design, construction and operational strategies that reduce a building’s environmental impact during both construction and operation, and that improve its occupants’ health, comfort and productivity throughout the building’s lifecycle.
As a window covering professional, I look out my window by my desk and wonder what would happen if I put on the green sunglasses. What would I see? How can I join in this evolution that is about to get underway?
We build homes, offices, schools, hospitals and nursing homes with windows. We have a strong need for connecting with the natural environment. It has been documented that worker productivity increases with natural daylight. School children learn better, patients feel better.
But what is the trade off for creating glass covered holes in the walls of our buildings? Of course, it is the energy inefficiencies and glare issues that occur. If an office faces south, the low winter sun bakes the occupants even in cold weather. Homes lose precious heat from leaky windows and homeowners see their utility bills skyrocket. Our window, our connection to the outdoors, is a critical area to focus upon.
In this article, I will address the various areas in which window coverings can make important contributions to sustainable design. I will start with the concept of daylighting.
CONTROLLING NATURAL LIGHT
Most simply, daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate building spaces. Rather than relying solely on electric lighting during the day, daylighting brings indirect natural light into a home or building. Daylighting reduces the need for electric lighting and connects people to the outdoors, and it provides pleasing illumination at a fraction of the cost of the most efficient electric lights.
The downside to daylighting is the problem of exposing naked windows to the elements. To address this, solar shades provide an excellent solution. Considerable energy can be saved by the correct specification and use of effective solar shading. These savings result from significantly reducing the heat entering the building in the hotter months and by reducing heat loss by acting as an insulator when external temperatures start to fall. By helping to control the internal environment less artificial cooling and heating is required thereby reducing energy costs.
Effective solar shading can reduce the heat gain from the sun’s radiation by between 50 and 70 percent and also prevents the creation of heat peaks and heat radiation. As a result, lower cooling capacity is often needed. In addition, high performance solar shading offers constant control over thermal comfort, which is important as large fluctuations in interior climate are regarded as extremely unpleasant to building users.
The ability to see through a fabric, through the tiny holes in the weave of the cloth, is determined by the openness of the weave and the quantity of light that permeates through the actual thread used in the fabric. Light entering through the thread itself is known as diffuse light. For good vision through the fabric, the amount of diffuse light must be minimized. This is because the eyes adapt to the total amount of light and too much diffuse light severely restricts the ability to see through the fabric to the outside.
Glare is determined to a large extent by the total light transmission through glazing and blinds, and if this is too high it leads to eyestrain and impossible-to-see monitors. Although many modern monitors now have non-reflective qualities, it is still important to limit the luminance ratio. If this is not done, then the eyes must continually adjust to changing light levels, which is a key contributor to eyestrain.
Controlling light transmission is often achieved by working with dark or thickly coated shading materials. Dark-colored materials with a low OF certainly offer some visual see-through, but have major disadvantages when it comes to energy saving and thermal comfort. Thickly coated materials are not suitable in terms of visual contact with the outside world, nor for the control of diffuse light.
The right solar shade fabric offers the ideal solution with all its designed to neutralize glare discomfort while still preserving visual contact with the outside world.
Neil Gordon is the owner of Decorating with Fabric, New York, www.dwfcontract.com. Serving both the residential and commercial markets, Gordon specializes in green building and sustainable design for window coverings and upholstery