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Solar shading as a business technology

December 1st, 2009 / By: / Awnings & Shades

In Europe, where the building sector is the largest energy consumer—more than transportation or industry—solar shading is key to addressing the European Union’s directives on the energy performance of buildings that will be strengthened by 2012. The present directive has been effective since 2006, superseding national policies and applying to all member states.

With so much at stake, the European Solar Shading Organization, or ES-SO, wants to ensure that the industry is heard and that solar shading is recognized as a building technology. ES-SO is an umbrella organization for solar shading organizations and companies in the European Union, and currently includes fifteen countries as members.

ES-SO held its recent workshop at Tende & Tecnica in Rimini, Italy, on October 9, 2009. Presentations included the importance of European standards, parameters for building simulation programs and a progress report on the EU research project Keep Cool II.

Keep Cool II project

“Sustainable summer comfort,” rather than just plain cooling, helps identify the purpose of the Keep Cool II project. Anders Hall, from Somfy in Sweden, described the project’s purpose: to reduce the negative impact of increasing cooling demand in Europe through minimal use of conventional energy, with an emphasis on passive solutions. One of those passive solutions recognized by the EU is solar shading.

With 90 percent of all waking time spent indoors, the need for good indoor climate is important. Hall emphasized the strong connections among good indoor climate, health and productivity. He stressed that static solutions no longer suffice; dynamic (mobile) solar shading solutions that change during the day to match the weather conditions (or the comfort of people) are more effective.

The first phase of the project, which is almost complete, is to provide analysis and technical tools to describe good solutions and overcome barriers like regulations, existing conventions, and market behavior. The second is to address networks and policy makers on a European level.

A Web-based toolkit provides visitors with information leading to a more energy-efficient Europe and a better, healthier working environment. The website is designed to influence change in behavior and provides specific information for each of the roles involved in reaching the goal of sustainable summer comfort: the building owner, building user, technical consultant, and operation personnel. With an integrated approach, the results are better for everyone involved.

Integrated solutions

A continuing theme of the workshop was the importance of working together through ES-SO to avoid duplication of efforts and be a stronger voice for the industry, in spite of the challenges.

Beginning in December 2004 with seven countries, ES-SO now has fifteen countries as members, with more parties interested. In countries where there are no related trade associations, individual companies are invited to join as associate members.

Dick Dolmans, Secretary General of ES-SO, highlighted the organization’s continuing activities to get solar shading recognized as a building technology in new EU legislation. Main activities include:

  • Lobbying the EU authorities
  • Writing articles about the business
  • Becoming acquainted with other building technologies
  • Participating in EU seminars and events
  • Being active in EU projects

The message is clear. Solar shading reduces cooling load in summer and heating load in winter when shading is properly automated. Solar shading can promote the use of free natural daylight, reducing the need for electric lighting. And solar shading can also enhance comfort, promoting health and productivity for building inhabitants.

In addition to working together as an industry, Dolmans emphasized the need to cooperate with other building sectors for greater efficiency. A “holistic building” is the new approach—looking at how systems and materials interact.

What about the data?

To meet the need for quantified data, ES-SO members are working on providing ways and means to compare measurements done in certified labs and tools for calculating energy performance.

Herve Lamy, representing SNFPSA (Syndicat national de la fermeture, de la protection solaire et des professions associées), focused on the function and importance of standards: technical specifications approved by a recognized body. Product standards provide for quality and safety for both consumers and manufacturers against non-safe brands. Standards also allow manufacturers to use a common language and technical references throughout Europe. Lamy advocated for the promotion of standards to be done through national or European trade associations.

In another presentation, Lamy gave an example of thermal regulations in France, where the building sector is responsible for 40 percent of energy consumption and 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. National measures are prepared to enter into force in 2012, consisting of tough regulations applying to new buildings where minimum performance is required and a maximum energy consumption for new buildings is required. Incentive provisions such as interest-free loans and tax reductions leading to energy savings are also in the pipeline.

Solar protection in France is not a piece of equipment, but planned as part of the building. This protection can include roller shutters, textile blinds or venetian blinds if they are permanent to the building. Two solar devices on the same window can be considered to optimize energy gains in winter—one internal, one external. Any kind of control system is covered, either manual or motorized.

Shade Specifier is the name of a solar shading software used by the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA) to illustrate the financial and environmental benefits of using solar shading in buildings. Andrew Chalk from BBSA explained how the software models typical commercial and residential buildings to show the benefits of internal and external solar shading to address solar gain and heat loss.

Using available data, Shade Specifier organizes it in a usable format to help answer the question “what does it all mean?” The software allows for comparison of fabrics and other shading materials against each other and calculates measurements like g values. The g value is used in Europe to measure solar transmission through windows; Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is the measurement used in the United States.

While monetary savings and environmental protection are important, Chalk emphasized that the comfort of people using the building should not be minimized, since they spend so much time indoors.

What’s next

According to Dolmans, there is growing pressure from the market for public and official buildings to lead in the development of energy efficient buildings. And the topic in general is becoming of more interest to consumers, concurs Alberto Danieli, former president of ASSITES (the Italian solar shading association).

As an organization of national associations largely representing small and medium-sized companies, ES-SO has a close connection to the market. The industry employs more than 400,000 people across 27 member states with annual sales over 15 billion euros. That adds up to significant local work and jobs. ES-SO is determined to make the industry even more significant.

Susan Niemi is editorial director at IFAI.

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