Tuesday, May 15, 2007


My office has huge single glazed south facing windows. Last summer we roasted, despite our attempts with desk fans. Things had begun to hot up again this spring and we were starting to dread the sunny afternoons.

But no longer! We have invested in some solar gain reducing window film from this company. The film reflects the heat energy from the sun, but lets most of the light in, reducing the heat gain and glare. It is stuck onto the inside face of the glass in the same way as car window stickers. It looks slightly grey from the outside, but isn’t mirrored like you see on 70’s office buildings. It’s noticeable, but inoffensive.

We have had it a week and the difference is absolutely astonishing. Today is warm and sunny and usually by now we would have the fans going and the door open. Instead I am a perfect temperature.

I am very happy with the solution to our heat problem. I was uneasy about getting an air-conditioning unit. It is soooo bad for the environment with all the energy they use. Likewise having the fans running all day was such a waste of energy too. The film cost only £250 for two massive sash windows, and will last for 15 years.

Digression #1: my pet hate of conservatories

I get annoyed these days with people’s disregard to passive solutions to energy problems. I have seen so many people who have energy guzzling air conditioning units in their conservatories, but don’t draw the blinds or open the windows for ventilation.

My own opinion as an Architect is that many people build conservatories without understanding how the building will behave, or how they are intended to be used. They end up being disappointed that they can’t use it for many months of the year. They solve the problem by artificially heating and cooling the room at vast expense.

In Scotland the building regulations are much stricter than in England and I am often amazed at some of the schemes that get permission in England. Conservatory companies have preyed on the aspirations of the middle classes, and the result is an environmental (and in many cases aesthetic) disaster.

When clients ask me to design them a conservatory, I always steer them away from a fully glazed, heat gaining box, to a highly glazed room with tons of insulation in the non glazed bits. Having a solid roof that is super insulated but with large triple glazed rooflights results in a room that is light and bright, but warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The rooflights can easily have blinds fitted that don’t end up looking like a Bedouin tent. Larger roof overhangs mean that big windows in the walls are shaded during the hottest part of the day but that morning and evening sun can enter. A proper ‘room’ means the base walls and floor can be properly insulated and weather proofed. In my opinion it’s a far superior idea, and it needn’t be any more expensive. It just means you can’t buy one ‘off the peg’. I might be offending many of you conservatory owners here, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

I really try in my professional life to stand up for the environment, because that is one area where I personally can make a huge difference. Many of my clients don’t even realise that they are saving the planet because I don’t tell them. I just quietly specify heat exchanging extract fans, whack in double the statutory amount of insulation, and order the most efficient boiler on the market. There are some sanitary fittings I won’t use due to the large water consumption.

Digression #2: Shark baiting

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a big hippy greeny freak or anything. I am just as guilty of wasting energy as most people, but I do try to make small changes, and if everyone makes small changes then that will amount to a big change. It really bugs me when people think that their energy consumption makes no difference, not with the whole of China belching out carbon Dioxide like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s the same attitude I have heard with the great white Shark diving. We quite fancied doing a Great White cage dive when we in South Africa. However when we started to read about it became apparent that in order to get the sharks to come to the boats they dump loads of bloody bait in the water. This is training the sharks to associate humans with a food source, a one way trip to ecological mayhem. It’s not good for humans, and definitely not good for this amazing endangered fish.

I was stunned to hear an intelligent, well educated person claim, ‘well, those companies would be going out baiting the sharks whether I go with them or not, so I might as well do the cage dive’ DERRRR!!! Ever heard of supply and demand? That was nothing but a fatuous excuse for selfish behaviour. Take some personal responsibility!

Erm, where was I? Oh yes, solar film:
I would thoroughly recommend trying some film in the first instance if you have a lot of heat gain through windows. Cheap, non permanent, and not as unattractive as you might think.


Blogger Tony Ruscoe said...

In the building where we all work, they had originally put that film on the windows in the hope that they could get away without buying blinds. Of course, that stuff doesn't completely block out the sun, so they had to buy them anyway... cheapskates!

9:03 PM  
Blogger Pedja said...

Thanks for the tip Rach, we have the same problem in our office, I'll definitely look into the film jobby.

As sharks are concerned, I hate that circus stuff...as you I am no green freak but if you want to play macho then why the cage?
Anyway sharks prefer the taste of other fish not the divers...they've learned that eating scuba tanks makes them fart and neoprene suits give them indigestion!

9:53 AM  

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