How Sunshades Became Popular for Sustainable Design

A Brief History of Awnings and Canopies

The practice of shading property by way of awnings and canopies dates back to antiquity when Syrians and Egyptians hung hand-woven mats over their storefronts and homes to better manage the sun’s intolerable heat. These makeshift awnings and canopies eventually gained ornamental appeal and made their way to the United States where striped canvas versions were used to dress up Victorian homes in the late 1800s. Awnings remained popular in America through the mid-19th century; fabric shades were replaced by aluminum in the 40s for style, stability, and economy, but with the advent of air conditioning that swept the nation in the 50s, awnings and canopies were rendered nearly obsolete.

A Renewed Interest in Sun Control

However, today’s environmental concerns and sustainability practices have renewed interest in awnings and canopies, and sparked the development of sunshades. With a hyperfocus on sustainability, architects and developers are remembering how sun-control products assist energy efficiency and further designed horizontal sunshades and louvers to do the work of awnings and canopies with more style—just under a different name.

The comeback of awnings and canopies and the invention of sunshades has also fueled the demand for options and customization including size, shape, frame type, materials, you name it.

Sunshades Support Sustainability

When designing a new building, architects carefully consider one factor, among many, that plays a crucial role in his or her design: the property’s location. Each location is different and presents its own environmental opportunities and challenges including solar gain, daylight hours, prevailing winds, ventilating breezes, and weather patterns. A smart architect minimizes these disadvantages and optimizes the advantages by applying sustainable design including the use of architectural sunshades. Sunshades are expertly implemented to dissipate solar radiation while enhancing natural daylight, the interior’s atmosphere, and visibility.

For instance, walls of glass—known in the industry as “glazing”—are often used on the south-facing façade, which catches more sunlight than any other side of a building. To mitigate the risk of overheating an interior on summer days, shading devices such as canopies and sunshades are installed. Because these exterior sun-control solutions are employed instead of heavy glass tinting, the result is high visibility of the outdoors and optimal natural lighting for a healthier indoor environment.

Final Thoughts on Architectural Sunshades

Sunshades are a smart architectural design feature that improves a property’s energy efficiency and aesthetics. Sunshades support sustainable design by deflecting direct sunlight to keep a building’s temperature comfortable and consistent, and optimizing natural sunlight to make it more enjoyable and motivating for all tenants and visitors. This results in decreased operating costs and energy consumption for heating, cooling, and artificial lighting, and increased occupant satisfaction and workforce productivity.

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