Shading technology as seen through the eyes of an architect

Shading technology as seen through the eyes of an architect - what are the criteria for selection and the latest trends? We ask architect Radim Václavík from the Atos6 Architectonic Office.

1) In which phase of the project is it necessary to consider using shading technology and why?
We include shading technology in the very early design stages of the construction. In particular, we address the shape of the building. The correctly designed shape of the basic materials can save high costs for cooling during the summer. If it is not possible to suitably shade the window holes with the shape, we decide to use further forms of shading. Sometimes, a neighbouring building or a tree can help with the construction of a small family house. From the south, it is necessary to make sure there is an undisturbed view from the window in the building when looking out. In other cases we prefer active shading systems because they can respond in time to the changing conditions and requirements of the user.

2) What is the main purpose of shading technology?
It enables us to regulate large volumes of light and thermal energy penetrating through transparent constructions into the object. It is essential to shade the thermal flow during the orientation of residential units on the sunny side without any cross ventilation. These units cannot be used in summer without shading in the case of tropical temperatures. Therefore, we constructed outside shading, for example, on the construction of the care service building on Gajdošova in Ostrava. The shading technology enables us to orientate the residential rooms towards the sides where the sun shines.

3) On the basis of which criteria do you select suitable shading technology for a particular project?
In the first place it must be the function, although the appearance and the price are also important. Each construction has different requirements for shading or regulating the light flow. For offices, there are other priorities than for a family house.
For offices we simply need, in the summer, to protect the interior against overheating because these premises have many other heat sources, such as copy machines, computers, many people, etc. In addition, we need to maximize the daylight. In winter, the shading must penetrate the maximum solar radiation which helps to heat the object. These requirements are antagonistic; in the design, the individual ratio must be verified by a calculation and an automatic system for control and regulation of shading is necessary.
For a family house, there is not so much light in the interior and the main priority is to ensure user comfort and greater emphasis on the aesthetical parameters of individual shading elements. On the contrary, during the heating season, we need the maximum thermal solar gains which will significantly reduce heating costs. In the case of a family house, it is recommended to use automatic control and regulation of shading.

4) What type of shading technology are customers interested in and why?
Because there is greater awareness, outside shading is becoming more popular as it is physically more advantageous than interior shading. If we shade solar radiation in front of the glass, the heat will not transfer into the interior. However, the principle is valid that everything is always permitted depending on the specific design. With the ongoing increasing energy optimisation of energy consumption in buildings, it is recommended to use an electric control that can also control the system when there is no one in the building. Weather very often changes, and it is necessary to always correctly set the shading.

5) And what bout shading technology from the viewpoint of architects and what is the current trend?
Ten years ago it was sliding shutters; they were always popular. Now various perforated surfaces are often used which hide the bulk of the building. Such houses have facades designed so that it is not possible to know where the window is. For me, it is very interesting to use climbing plants for shade. However, this cannot always be used.

6) At present, many concepts are used very often, such as low-energy houses and passive houses. Are there any specific requirements for shading technology in this area?
These houses have such thermal-technical properties that it is necessary to precisely control the shading so it does not cause any redundant increased demand for interior lighting. If the room is darkened, then the lights in it must be used. Therefore, we need more electricity that we do not want. So this contrast is resolved by modifying the declination of lamellas in the upper part of the window. When darkened, the upper part is slightly opened which lets daylight into the interior.
We used this solution when designing a passive office in Ostrava for the Intoza Company. All fillings in the building shell are designed with the construction solution for passive constructions, i.e. with triple glazing and with the profile for passive houses. For protection against too high thermal gains from sunlight in the summer and for restriction of thermal losses at night in the winter, the windows are fitted with outside regulated shading and a system for double tilting the lamellas – the ISOTRA Duo system.



7) How do you see the future of shading technology from the viewpoint of an architect?
Today when buildings do not cause problems as they used to, shading often plays the role of decoration, jewellery. Due to the variable setting of shading elements, facades have changed because of the shading elements, which are used as a creative concept. In the area of interior shading, then shading and darkening offers an infinite range. In addition to traditional interior grids, we also use interior rollers and Japanese panel walls which are currently fulfilling the strong demand for specific properties (fireproof, suitable for allergies) and they shape the overall atmosphere of the interior. From this aspect, there is only one restriction – the level of funds designated for the construction.



8) Could you name a project where the shading technology was used in an untraditional way?
I always think of the project by the French architects, Jean Nouvel Institute du Monde Arabe. In this construction, the shading is the dominant feature. The mechanical façade functions similar to the aperture before closing the lens on a photo camera, and creates various decorations on the façade.


9) Do you think that architects and designers have sufficient information available to them for designing suitable shading technology? If not, which information do you need?
I think that the idea is important – vision. Consequently, the exact performance with the contractor's technician will be agreed. New buildings inspiring reference constructions are like oxygen; in the spirit of this then resources are inexhaustible.

10) Do you feel that the general public is knowledgeable when it comes to the advantages of shading technology?
I know from experience that if somebody builds for themselves, they are usually sufficiently knowledgeable about shading technology. If the investor is not a user, then shading is sometimes cancelled due to acquisition costs. It will also consequently effect the user and additional installation is always more expensive and in most cases it is not possible to select the optimal solution.

11) What would you propose to increase knowledge of shading technology and how would you do it?
This is like any other area of life. You need to look around you without prejudice.


Ing Arch Radim Václavík

Ing. arch. Radim Václavík was born in 1969. He has his own architectonic studio which is part of the Ostrava company, Atos6. He is an authorized architect, a member of the authorized board of ČKA, a professional assistant for the Department of Architecture at FAST VŠB-TU Ostrava, and the founder and Chairman of the Association Centre of new architecture. One of his evaluated constructions is the nursing services building in Moravská Ostrava and Přívoz, which was classified in the prestigious foreign publication European Architecture.