Archive | May, 2011

The solar option – looks good in print

24 May

Solar Shading

With our warmest spring for years drawing to a close, and summer on the way, we’ve been revelling in the sun – or have we?

In an office setting – particularly in a commercial property constructed largely from glass – sun, or its near cousin, solar gain, isn’t always a blessing. A commercial environment means productivity, or at least it should; but uncontrolled solar gain can cause a loss of productivity in the workforce. Excessive heat can cause dehydration in people, and the well documented effects of include lack of concentration and poor performance. Of course, every office should have a good supply of drinking water and should encourage workers to take advantage of it, but controlling solar gain has become equally important.

The seriousness of the problem is now enshrined in The Building Regulations, in fact the 2010 changes to Part L require that all types of new buildings must now pass a solar intensity test. Aggregated solar gains between April and September must not exceed a benchmark level. And although there is no legal maximum (or minimum) temperature for the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive recommends a number of measures that should be taken to reduce uncomfortably high temperatures in the workplace, including shading the windows.

Installing blinds and curtains is easy enough in a domestic setting, but in offices, it can be costly and can compromise the purity of the architect’s design. Fortunately, the solution to controlling solar gain through shading can now be applied to the glass itself. The answer lies in specialist ceramic screen printing. This can be used to apply fabulous printed designs to glass for aesthetic purposes, but it can also be used to introduce a ‘graduated frit’ pattern, to effectively filter sunlight.

In a graduated frit, a pattern of varying density is screen printed onto the glass; usually more intense at the top of the window or glass panel and increasingly open in design lower down the panel. The printed areas block sunlight, so the density of the pattern determines how much sun is kept out to control solar gain, and how much is let in to provide valuable natural light. The architect can now plan screen printed graduated patterns as part of the building design, solving the solar gain problem from the outset; whereas bolt on solutions arising from a later date could create an effect the architect definitely didn’t want.

The potential uses of this technology are only limited by imagination; it can be used in the home, perhaps in a conservatory where heat gain is a frequent problem; or in a public setting such as a bus shelter or a shop window. It’s equally appropriate on partitions and screens, balustrades or corporate atriums; especially as screen printing can also be used to carry corporate messages and branding on glass. In fact, the two can be combined in unique, bespoke designs which make brands stand out, while controlling excess heat.

Screen printing on glass might prevent solar gain, but it’s definitely win, win.

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