A brise soleil typically takes the form of a slatted design attached to a building to moderate the amount of sunlight that enters it at different times. They may be mounted vertically, like a wall, or horizontally, like a kind of awning. In each case, the position of the slats allows sunlight to enter a building at lower intensities – for example, during the early morning and late afternoon, or during the winter months. At these points, the light comes from a lower angle, closer to the horizon. In the summer and at hotter times of day, the slats bar the light from the windows. Glass louvres and other external louvres are similar solutions that can be retrofitted to buildings, or alternatively form part of a building’s fundamental design.
The advantages of all of these systems are numerous. The chief benefit is that the buildings to which they are attached are made more comfortable, specifically in terms of temperature. The louvres limit the amount of high-intensity sunlight hitting the windows, whilst allowing passive solar heating at cooler times. This means that they make the buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. That has benefits to both your comfort and your energy bills. Although you may not do away with the need for heating or air-conditioning entirely, brise soleil and louvres make best use of the available sunlight. Better working conditions make for happier employees, too.
Glare is similarly reduced, also making for an environment more conducive to working. For some industries (such as designers and artists) this is important for the preservation of their working materials, too. In other cases glare from the sun is simply an inconvenience which is only uncomfortable but nevertheless highly distracting.
Finally, brise soleil and glass louvres can constitute a key part of the architectural design. External louvres in some cases are a highly attractive feature, and have been built in to make maximum visual impact as well as any benefits in terms of solar heating and cooling. One of the best-known examples of this is the enormous, wing-shaped brise soleil on the Milwaukee Art Museum. This has the additional distinction of being closed at dusk every day, and opened the next day – a celebrated piece of functional art itself. The 217-foot wingspan has become so iconic since its installation in 2001 that it has been adopted as a symbol of the city.
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