Solar Screen Shades: ‘Green’ Solution for Commercial Window Treatments

Solar screen shades are a popular solution for commercial window covering projects. The ability to have the shades down to provide glare control while maintaining “view through” to keep the inside spaces connected with the outdoor environment is truly unique. Performance issues are often overlooked by designers focused only on specifying PVC-free or recyclable products. Although there are many ways to interpret what is Green, making sure that window treatments meet or exceed necessary performance criteria is critical for successful commercial building projects and happy clients.

Specifying PVC-free and recyclable products is well intended, but often does not provide the building owners with the best solution. The PVC-coating on many solar screen fabrics contributes to the durability. Most of the new PVC-coated shade fabrics are Greenguard certified for indoor air quality standards and will last 2-3 times as long as some of their PVC-free counterparts. PVC-free is great, but only if the product meets durability and performance standards required for the commercial project.

The reason that most commercial buildings need window treatments to begin with is glare control. Ideally, window treatments should allow for less than 10% of the visual light to transmit into the space to achieve reasonable glare control. Depending upon the size and exposure window treatments that have a visual light transmittance of 4-6% is ideal for most applications. Many of the commonly specified window treatments have visual transmittance in the 11-30% range, leading to too much glare and unhappy end-users. Light colored PVC-coated solar screen fabrics allow 7-15% light transmittance. Some of the light colored PVC-Free and recyclable solar screen fabrics allow 15-35% light transmission. To achieve acceptable glare control with these fabrics, architects should specify dark colors which reduce the light transmission into the 4-6% range.

Green also means energy efficient. White and highly reflective window treatments can substantially reduce the lighting and air conditioning loads in commercial buildings. Specifying the right window treatment solution also allows building engineers to reduce the size of cooling systems and lead to lower front-end building costs. The problem is that most white or light colored window treatments do not provide adequate glare protection. The solution is to specify metalized fabrics that have higher shading performance and low visible light transmission regardless of the color specified.

Two fabrics that meet and exceed the criteria outlined above are SilverScreen and EnviroScreen. SilverScreen is a 5% openness metalized PVC-coated screen fabric that offers the total solution, energy-efficient glare protection with excellent view through characteristics. EnviroScreen is a 2% openness metalized PVC-Free alternative with similar energy efficiency and glare control characteristics as SilverScreen. Both offer architects a Green solution that may qualify for Leeds points, solve glare control issues, and lower long-term energy costs.