There is a certain amount of conflict in the business of sunshine. We want it, we like it, it is a mood enhancer like no other and yet we spend a lot of time, money and intelligence to find ways of avoiding it.
Pure adversaries; glorious sunlight versus intrusive radiation. The challenge is one that causes designers and clients to put their heads in their hands. It’s all very well to talk about shading coefficients and ultra violet protection factors when all a client wants is the ‘fabulous view’ and ‘amazing light’ offered by bigger than ever glass curtain façades and open planning.
Whatever the current desires, the problem of finding shade in the frequently hot and hostile Australian climate has been with us since the year dot. Colonists brought with them some fine ideas gathered from the Empire; wide, shady verandas, high ceilings and breezeways. The Colonial vernacular, especially in ‘Queenslanders’, added shady latticed facades, clearly reminiscent of that seen in India.
Indeed, if one were to look toward areas of greatest experience in dealing with extreme climate, India, and the UAE would have to be right up there.
Indian architectural firm Morphogenesis has taken traditional cures for the climate and brought them forward to create contemporary and applauded design. The British School in New Dehli, for example, is 50 percent non-air conditioned. Beautiful, and thermally active mortar facades, detailed in culturally familiar cut outs work as shields.
The many courtyards within the precinct are smaller than an Australian average, allowing the buildings to shade the many open spaces, and allow passive venting. And it works. While outside temperatures in New Delhi may be 44 degrees Celsius, the lower floor classrooms sit at a very liveable 26 degrees, all the while adding a striking depth and to a richly contextual design.
Locally the same may be said of Queensland University’s Global Change Institute (GCI) building. Where better to see sustainable solutions at work, through environmentally considerate options in climate control?
The striking perforated aluminium, custom designed panels from Louvreclad are integral to the success of the Hassell designed building. The fully operable screens move with the sunlight, controlled by the structures building management system, which include Lux and temperatures sensors designed to maintain an optimum operation, with the rooftop weather station also taking into account storm and sever weather events, in which case the screens close and work as security against atmospheric damage.
The remarkable and rather poetic system is from Louvreclad’s Polaris range, and is a prime example of the premium operable louvre systems, the full range of which is more than extensive. The GCI building is an ideal example of the fact that the pursuit of shade is more than utilitarian, but rather a chance, or even an excuse, to enhance an architectural plan.
Whereas GCI was an anodised metal finish, the shade range from Innowood is more organic by design. The product is a composite, timber look solution that offers the visual appeal of timber, without the maintenance burden.
The material in use, primarily made from recycled wood waste, has the visual warmth of natural timber while offering the robust qualities of a manufactured product. The façade batten system from Innowood allows a great breadth of flexibility in overall design that marries so well with the louvre shading systems on offer. The Sol’art system can be operated manually or automatically and offers a range of blade sizes up to 3800mm vertical span.
Still on the vertical plane and the greatest question with regard to with shade options must be addressed – do you have to sacrifice views to reduce heat and glare and all the attendant HCVA issues?
The answer is a clear no. In many instances screening solutions also offer valuable privacy coverage, but of course that is not always the wish. In many cases the glass envelope offers unbeatable views, and valuable escalation in rent revenue.
Can glass meet the challenge? According to the Australian Glass Group (AGG), absolutely. Coated glass, Low E Glass, can be highly energy efficient offering quite dramatic glare reduction as well as significant heat reduction. AGG’s Insulglass alone offers a reduction in heart transference of 50 percent. Upgrade further to Insulglass Max, and the result is 47 percent better still, stopping 62 percent of external heat from making its way into your personal space, while allowing access to the view you fell in love with in the first place. An added bonus from the AGG range is the noise reduction offered by laminated glass.
And what of window films? While the film brand 3M may be familiar, what may not be is the company name Paragon. The brand was launched at the end of 2018 and is actually the culmination of several known names such as DMS, SolarX and Sunscreen and includes being a licensed 3M agency. Now brought together in the Paragon brand the window film offering is easier to access on a national footing.
Their most recent addition to window treatment is the Paragon 3M Prestige PR70 Solar Window Control film which has a remarkably clear appearance from the interior aspect, and scores very well in sun control with case studies showing a reduction of 97 percent in infrared heat and 99.98 percent in UV rays. The new Prestige range also offers strong heat rejection, with a no-metal technology and low reflectivity that when applied will not alter the outside appearance of a building. Having said that, films do offer the chance to add decorative effects, which can be fairly easily swapped out.
Away from the vertical, what of the horizontal plane?
Again, the blades. What did we ever do without them? Vergola is of course a household name in louvre roof systems, featuring Australian made Colorbond Zincalume aerofoil blades which promise a higher insulation factor that other blade options.
Louvretec also offer a bladed or louvre driven roofing option, but have included in their range the winter time option (or perhaps star gazers’ option?) of a louvre roof system where the blades move out of the way entirely. Also to be found here is the slightly less harsh, more relaxed option of a retracting canvas roofing system – though clearly this does not offer the same weather tight performance found in the louvre roofing system. In any event, the option of roofing systems that offer protection from the harsh realities of Australian Summers can only enhance the quality of life – whether it’s a café terrace or a homey courtyard.
However, with all this ‘hi-techedness’, we cannot ignore the sheer aesthetic delight of a cute cupola or an awesome awning. Givenchy, Dior, Ritz-Carlton are all brands that have maintained the chic custom of the simple awning. Finally, we have colour options, a chance to make a splash, and cast a shadow of any multitude of hues upon the outside and inside of buildings from whence they are deployed.
Somfy have a wonderful range of motor driven awnings that will delight and de-stress anyone who sees them. No more struggling with winders and jammed ratchets, now at the touch of a button, elegance can be deployed and sensibilities retained. It’s like being on the Cote d’azur, even if it’s just on the outside of the office coffee shop. This isn’t to say Somfy does not also produce other solutions – in fact their range of exterior screens or blinds (also remoted) are very effective.
To be offered shade is to be transformed, to be transported, to be comforted and cooled. It is an ancient art that has been elevated to new heights. Perhaps nowhere better is this seen, or experienced than inside the extraordinary Louvre Abu Dhabi. The harshest of light and heat has been tamed by Paris based architects Ateliers Jean Nouvel (AJN). Reminiscent of the dappled light found under palm trees, the creators were commanded to not only create an indoor atmosphere conducive to protecting collections of irreplaceable artworks, but also an ambience that would elevate the visitors’ experience.
AJN’s design statement, the giant ‘parasol’ roof is mesmerising. One hundred and eighty metres in diameter, and weighing 7,500 tonnes (the same weight coincidentally as the Eiffel Tower) the stainless steel and aluminium dome achieves the simple objective – to shade and protect visitors, while delicate patterns of light dance across the vast horizontal and vertical planes. It is simply sublime.
In all the message is clear; to control light, is not to obliterate its beauty, but rather to celebrate it’s wonder.