May 18, 2018

Why Smart Daylighting Designs Include Motorized Window Treatments

Forward-thinking architects and designers maximize the sun’s energy for interior light and heat. This approach is called daylighting, and it involves much more than just window placement. Among other considerations, a comprehensive design incorporates strategically placed windows and skylights based on building orientation and climate, energy-saving interior lighting fixtures, light-reflecting paint and light shelves, and motorized window treatments. Smart blinds and shades allow building occupants to operate motorized window treatments using a remote control. For maximum efficiency, they can be controlled by a Building Automation System. They can be powered by a battery but, for most applications, they are hard wired into the building’s electrical system or even solar powered. Motorized window treatments enhance daylighting strategies in many ways, and the following are only a few examples.

By harnessing the natural resource we call the sun, building owners can dramatically cut lighting and heating costs. When motorized shades are connected to sensors, they know when to open and close based on the ambient temperature, and can work together with the Building Automation System to maintain the desired temperature and lighting. According to the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences, artificial lighting accounts for 35-50% of the energy used in a typical commercial building. Motorized window treatments can be connected to sensors that detect when sunlight intensifies or diminishes, enabling the position of the shades and blinds to change with the sun. If the building is designed with light-responsive electrical lighting, smart window treatments can also be set to coordinate with interior lighting systems to further decrease energy usage. Heating and cooling costs can also be reduced with the combined use of daylight and automated window coverings. While buildings in cooler climates tend to demand more of their heating systems, and warmer environments can require constant air conditioning to maintain a comfortable temperature year-round, keep in mind that artificial lighting can generate three watts of heat for each watt of light. This means that air conditioning is too often used to compensate for heat caused by light fixtures. As part of a thoughtful design, properly shaded windows will pay for themselves in the amount saved in heating and cooling costs. More light can be allowed in for warmth or blinds can be closed to keep things cool. Automating the window coverings further improves cost savings by eliminating the possibility of improper use by building occupants.

Now is the time to develop and implement sustainable building strategies. When the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 by 195 countries at the COP21 conference in Paris, the world made a commitment to contain climate change. Daylighting can help offset a building’s environmental impact by reducing energy consumption. A recent study published in Science Direct confirmed, as expected, that increasing the amount of daylight results in a reduction of the global primary energy demand, particularly in the presence of a daylight responsive dimming system: average savings of up to 31% can be achieved in spaces with high daylight availability. In addition to reducing the need for both generated lighting and room heating/cooling, some automated window covering systems can use DC motors, saving operating energy by two-thirds. This means that the system already reducing a building’s energy demand is also saving energy in how it powers itself.

Not only is daylight aesthetically pleasing, it is also essential for human health and happiness. Research studies have shown that exposure to daylight improves overall health and circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm influences our sleep cycles, the release of hormones like melatonin and serotonin, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and many other vital bodily functions. When circadian rhythm is disrupted, it can create adverse health conditions. These can be physical, such as cardiovascular events and obesity, or neurological, like bipolar disorder and depression. Considering the fact that people spend about 90% of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, daylight can help mitigate the negative consequences. Positive benefits include:

  • increased employee productivity
  • reduced office absenteeism
  • improved educational performance in K–12 schools
  • improved recovery times for patients in the hospital

Saving money, protecting the environment and preserving good health: which of your residential or commercial design clients wouldn’t be interested in these goals? When motorized window treatments are integrated into a daylighting strategy, harvesting the benefits of sunlight throughout the day is an automatic priority.

Delight your clients and enhance the beauty and effectiveness of daylighting designs with automated screen and shade systems powered by Nice Era Inn technology. This changes everything.

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