Shining a Light on Blinds, Shades, and Carbon Footprints

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Jemima Heard
3 minutes

Sustainable Innovation provided the Association Management Company with an LCLDN grant to help them employ R&D staff for the research and development of appropriate educational resources for the Built Environment sector.

Energy efficiency of buildings can be enhanced through using shading technologies designed to manage solar heat gain and losses via windows. However, these solutions are often considered at the end of a project, which can mean that the most optimal approach is not always specified. The British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA), which is the UK’s single largest source of information covering the solar shading industry, is on a mission to help reduce buildings’ carbon footprint through the correct specification and use of solar shading products. Their mission is supported by the AMC (The Association Management Company).

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint (UK Green Building Council). While much of the focus has been on the importance of insulation in helping to improve energy efficiency buildings, other options have potentially been overlooked. Radiation through windows can contribute to 10% of a building’s heat loss, for example. Blinds and shades have great potential to help control the internal environment of buildings: reducing heat gain in the summer, leading to less use of air conditioning, and heat loss in the winter, leading to reduced reliance on heating.

Despite the multi-functionality of blinds, shutters and awnings, which can control light, reduce heat gain or to help preserve heat in a building, these purchases are invariably made once the building has been completed, with decisions driven by aesthetics and budgets.

Benefits of correct blinds and shading systems

Even when retrofitting is the only option – most building stock being of older rather than new stock – the benefits of suitable blind and shading systems can still be significant in terms of energy saving, carbon dioxide reduction and improved comfort and wellbeing of occupants, says Andrew Chalk, spokesman for the BBSA. They can also contribute reduce operational costs of buildings, in terms of energy expenditure.

One of the BBSA’s main activities is to provide qualified impartial information for the shading industry as well as for specifiers and users of blinds and other solar shading systems. Association members provide expert advice to architects, specifiers, contractors, and building owners and users as to the best solution for any solar shading issue.

Educating about the benefits of each system in an engaging and straight forward way enables the most suitable products to be consideredearly on in a project, while providing specifiers, building owners and users with the information they need to make decisions about what shading products are required for each part of their building.

BBSA are working closely with AMC (The Association Management Company) to collect extensive market data. Funding from Sustainable Innovation's LCLDN grants have allowed AMC to hire Zoe De Grussa, LSBU Engineering Alumni, to support this project.

Collaboration with LSBU

To be able to provide this impartial information service BBSA has collected extensive market data, from various sources, as well as input from stakeholders, with the support of London South Bank University (LSBU).

“We like the intellectual rigour applied to the projects, the backup of expertise from the various schools, the research and testing facilities and the quality of the output of projects we have been involved in previously,” says Chalk.

Zoe De Grussa has been sharing research with the BBSA, with the aim of improving knowledge of consumers as well as manufacturers and distributors of blinds and shutters, about their role inboost building energy efficiency.

De Grussa’s PhD research began six years ago, and was sponsored and supported by the BBSA in conjunction with LSBU. For the past two years, in the final stages of her PhD, De Grussa, an engineering product designer, as been working for the AMC alongside BBSA.

De Grussa says: “We have catalogued and reviewed resources to identify gaps where knowledge needs to be improved. We also consulted with the industry about what tools and resources they require to improve this knowledge.

“We are now starting to produce these new resources and we will be gaining feedback on the resources we produce throughout the project to ensure they are fit for purpose.”

Some images in this case study are illustrative only, and sourced from Unsplash. Credit belongs to Pawel Czerwinski.