There are several architectural features that can decrease energy expenditure and might be considered in the design of a new development. Since awareness of environmental issues has risen – plus energy costs – these technologies can be good ways of combating either excessive heating by the sun and/or using the sun’s energy to heat space where possible. Foremost amongst these features are the brise soleil and external louvres. The first is a catch-all term for different sun barriers, from the simple to fairly complex versions. glass louvres are another way of controlling the amount of solar heating that a building receives.
Modern offices and other buildings often have big windows. This has a number of benefits, including giving them a light, spacious feel, cutting down on the need for indoor lighting and, to an extent, heating – even in Britain, where the sun cannot be relied upon. However, in the height of summer this can result in a different problem, as the space quickly heats up and starts to feel like the inside of a greenhouse. This, in turn, results in an environment that is so uncomfortable that a cooling system is needed. Air conditioning has costs associated with it, as does heating. The question therefore becomes: how to use the sun for heating when it is needed, but not to allow it to overheat the space in hotter weather?
The brise soleil and external louvres can be set in such a way as to exclude the sun’s rays at their most intense. The angle of glass louvres, for example, can be adjusted to block high-angle sun characteristic of the summer months of the year or the middle of the day. At the same time, they allow low-angle sun – characteristic of winter months – into the building. This means that you get the best of both worlds; the sun can be used for heating in cooler weather but excluded in hotter weather. In more sophisticated cases, the louvres are actually movable, meaning that they can be adjusted at the time if the weather is abnormally warm (or cold). These systems are more complicated and therefore expensive, although the building may earn back these additional costs in lower heating and cooling bills. Nevertheless, even fixed systems can go a long way to reducing energy bills and making buildings more pleasant, all year round.
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