Brise soleil

Amy Revell, sales manager at LouvreSol Specialist Projects Ltd explores the characteristics of modern solar shading.

Brise soleil, originating from the French meaning ‘Sun Breaker’ has evolved immensely over the last 20 years, and has become a credible addition to our 21st century architecture. Now an important consideration when beginning the initial designs of a new project, brise soleil has the unique ability to transform an ordinary looking building into an architectural success by creating depth and intrigue, while having a practical performance.

Brise soleil draws the eye to different lines and shadows, creating interest and dimension, however, it doesn’t just sit there looking pretty. Through clever design, brise soleil can have a huge impact on the reduction of solar glare and direct heat gain, while still allowing significant natural light and outward vision. These features assist in creating a comfortable living or working environment, reducing the need for costly air conditioning. Brise soleil does not consume any energy, or omit any ozone damaging chemicals, but assists the building with a long term solution to help combat overheating. When budgets are tight, brise soleil is usually one of the first things to be removed, however this is a short sighted view.

If designed correctly brise soleil can reduce running costs of a building significantly over a long period of time, virtually maintenance free, making it a very cost effective product. Brise soleil can also be integrated into a complete façade system by incorporating walkway systems, allowing safe and easy window cleaning and general maintenance access.

In order to achieve the balance between appearance and performance, a few simple points are crucial to consider. To achieve maximum performance, horizontal blades should be used for south facing areas and vertical blades used on east and west facing areas, blocking the most glare and heat gain, as the sun moves throughout the day. The number of blades is important, as this will reflect the size of shadow that will be created. Sun path analysis programmes can be used to advise what the projection of the brise soleil would need to be, to ensure solar coverage is achieved. Sun path analysis can also help when trying to value engineer the brise soleil, as there may be too much sun coverage. This can show ways of reducing the amount of blades, in turn reducing the overall cost.

To ensure a smooth installation, early design input from the brise soleil specialist is crucial, and should be taken as soon as possible. Brise soleil features can be very adventurous and cover a large expanse, which have a huge impact upon the loadings imposed upon a building’s structure. Brise soleil, if an aerofoil shape, is very much like an aeroplane wing. In high winds it wants to ‘take off’ due to the aerodynamics of its shape. Dead loads also need to be considered in our ever-unpredictable UK weather. Heavy rain showers bouncing off the blades and settling snow and high wind speeds put pressure on the connecting details and the structure. Structural calculations are imperative at the early design stage in order to assess whether the structure is substantial enough, and allows bracketry to be engineered to suit the loads.

In a world where we are being asked to be environmentally friendly and improve our waste levels, brise soleil manages to fall nicely into this category. The majority of brise soliel, does tend to be aluminium, which is 100 per cent recyclable and has an infinite life span. We have also seen an introduction of timber brise soleil, which can be sourced from sustainable sourced forests.

Brise soleil should be a serious and integral feature of our new generation of sustainable and long lasting buildings.