For thousands of years, ancient civilizations achieved thermal comfort through the practice of passive solar building design. They understood the importance of capturing solar energy in cold seasons and blocking it in hot seasons and designed their architecture based on the sun’s trajectory during different times of the year. In this article, we’ll discuss the history of solar shading solutions.
The Chinese were the first known civilization to master passive building strategies between 4000 and 2000 BC. They learned that facing a building to the south significantly improved thermal comfort in winter and that overheating in summer could be reduced by creating overhanging rooflines much like modern-day covered porches. Eventually cites evolved by placing buildings in rows so that each would have a southern exposure.
Similar building strategies became known to the ancient Greeks around 500-400 BC. Socrates was known to speak often about building orientation, size, and ventilation as key contributors to thermal comfort. Influenced by the Greeks, the Romans too built cities based solely on these same principals later in 500 AD. Access to the sun became so critical that a law was even implemented to protect an occupant’s right to natural light and solar heat provided by the sun.
As time progressed, other methods to heat and cool homes became available. City planners and building designers began to place greater importance on aesthetics resulting in the principals of passive building being abandoned at a cost to thermal comfort. Along came a need for solutions to minimize heat gains in summer while still allowing natural light to filter in. The Chinese tied bamboo together to hang at their windows, the Egyptians tied reed together and others hung wet cloth to help cool their homes.
Window shutters first appeared around 800 BC in ancient Greece made of marble with fixed slats. Later they were made of wood with movable slats and in medieval Europe, solid shutters were used for protection from intruders and insects more than for protection from the sun. Shutters remained in use well up to the 16th century until curtains and Venetian blinds began to replace them.
Although curtains had been in use since early times, they were usually made from animal hides and their purpose had been to serve as room dividers. Fabric curtains took on popularity as ornate and luxurious fabrics evolved. Curtains served well for sun and light control and added attractive colors and patterns to room décor leaving them still a popular choice today.
The Venetian Blind is thought to have originated in Persia made of wood. Through trade routes, they made their way to Venice, Italy during the 15th Century. It is further thought that Venetian slaves brought the blind making trade to France where they earned the name “Les Persienes” during the 17th century. The official name, “Venetian Blind” was patented in England later in the 1700s and they have since been manufactured out of plastic, metal or wood and remain commonly used throughout the globe to date.
Also, during the 1700s, a Scottish company began manufacturing the first roller blinds out of fabric. These blinds were originally raised from the bottom of the window by a cord that had to be secured once the desired height was reached. Later in the 1800s, a spring device to secure the cord was invented which is still in use today. Afterward, roller blind operating devices evolved to offer consumers a variety of options including motorized convenience. Now affordable to most consumers, motorization and automation are leading us into a new era of solar shading convenience.
To date, there are many solar shading solutions in the marketplace designed for interior applications and operated with a pull-cord. Interior solar solutions are significantly less energy-efficient than exterior solar solutions because exterior solutions block the sun’s rays before they enter the building which prevents heat gains within. In addition, pull-cord operators have been deemed unsafe for children and pets making exterior solar protection products and motorized blinds more popular than ever.
Motorized exterior mounted window treatments have been commonplace in Europe for decades. High energy costs in Europe drove demand for European countries to perfect the most energy-efficient window treatment possible leaving North America in the wings to catch up.
Because we have learned how heating and cooling our buildings impacts the environment through greenhouse gas emissions, consumers now place greater importance on energy-efficient solutions to reduce energy costs and their carbon footprint. Higher global temperatures and cooling demands have paved the way for well known ancient passive building strategies to make a comeback while solutions to retrofit old building stock are being highly sought after.
Talius Rollshutters are engineered using European manufacturing techniques and are proven to be a highly effective energy-efficient solution. Both Talius Rollshutters and Habitat Screens block the sun’s heat and glare before it enters your home reducing on-demand energy costs while maximizing thermal comfort.
Today we find ourselves reverting to the knowledge passed down by ancient civilizations to create solutions for the 21st century with purpose and appearance in mind.