Once considered to be old-fashioned, shutters, screen and awnings are seeing a resurgence in popularity. Not only are exterior window coverings very stylish, they are extremely practical.
They can reduce energy bills, provide privacy, and on domestic properties, add value as well.
The main purpose is to offer shade and in some cases, privacy. Today’s modern buildings – offices, school and homes, are built with lots of glass. They might be full of natural light, but all that glass can let in, and out, lots of extra heat, even with high-tech glass. The solar gain can cause issues for people working inside, meaning air conditioning has to work harder, pushing those expensive energy bills up even more. In winter, coverings on windows will let some heat out, even with energy efficient glazing.
All year round, even more so when the sun is lower in the sky, glare can make things particularly problematic in commercial buildings, as it becomes hard to see computer screens, paperwork and projector screens. Well-positioned and well-designed exterior coverings should also negate the need for interior coverings like blinds, which aren’t very durable and can get dusty and tatty.
Awnings might make you think of old-fashioned canopies over shops, but exterior window treatments have evolved from plastic and canvas, which were fairly fragile and easily damaged by the wind and rain that so characterises British weather.
Today’s awnings and canopies are made from sophisticated tensile fabrics, with lightweight aluminium frames. Awnings are usually retractable and are mechanised to make opening and retracting them effortless. You can even have them programmed to open and close remotely. Canopies are usually fixed in place, and sometimes positioned on the ground outside to also offer shade and shelter. Modern architectural fabrics are extremely sophisticated, and are very durable, easy to clean and much more resistant to the elements.
The beauty of tensile fabric structures like these is that they can be integrated into the architect’s plans for the building, and it’s just as easy to retro-fit them at any point, using companies like fabric architecture.
Yes, it does seem rather ironic, and a shame, to create a building using lots of glass and then try to block it out, but, ultimately, exterior coverings will make your building much more usable and enjoyable to live or work in.