The Ultimate Guide to Brise Soleil
Brise soleil means ‘sun breaker’ in French. It really is that simple. Though they come in many shapes and sizes, brise soleil is all about breaking up the intensity of sunlight entering a building, creating a cooler, more pleasant internal environment.
With the planet growing ever hotter, it is likely that more and more architects will begin incorporating passive sun protection into their designs. Not only will the widespread use of brise soleil lead to more comfortable living and working environments and greater energy efficiency, but they can also be used to revolutionise building design.
NORclad are industry leading timber merchants with over 40 years’ experience supplying exciting building projects with top quality cladding. We’ve spent a long time working with wood, and use our expertise to consistently deliver the highest standard of product to our clients. Durable, attractive, low cost, and eco-friendly too, timber is our passion – and it should be yours too!
In this article, we explore the concept of brise soleil and suggest the benefits of incorporating a timber version into your next building project.
What is Brise Soleil?
Brise soleil is the term for a range of architectural features designed to reduce heat gain by blocking or deflecting sunlight. Examples include aerofoils, canopies, awnings, shutters, louvres, curtain walls, lattices, and fins. They can also be used decoratively, boosting the external appearance of a building.
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The concept of incorporating shade into a building design is not new. In cultures across the globe, different methods have been used for filtering sunlight. Hindu architecture traditionally used jalis or pierced screens placed over windows. In traditional Middle Eastern buildings, mashrabiya, a kind of latticework, was used to passively catch and cool the wind. In Japan, architects used reed screens called sudare. And in Ancient Greece and Rome, large overhangs supported by columns were commonplace.
Even Socrates knew the benefits of brise soleil, stating in The Memorabilia: “Now, supposing a house to have a southern aspect, sunshine during winter will steal in under the verandah, but in summer, when the sun traverses a path right over our heads, the roof will afford an agreeable shade, will it not?”
The use of brise soleil in modern building design was popularised by Swiss-French architect and city planner Charles Édouard Jeanneret or Le Corbusier (1887-1965). Working mainly in hot countries, he was a pioneer of passive energy control. Throughout the 1930s, he incorporated some of the earliest modern examples of brise soleil into multi-story buildings, such as the Gustavo Capanema Palace in Brazil.
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How Does Brise Soleil Work?
Different brise soleil systems have different ways of working, but essentially they reduce heat gain by blocking the amount of sunlight entering a building. Some of the most common use fins or blades. These blades can be vertical or horizontal and angled so that low-level morning, evening, and winter sun can pass through, but intense summer sun cannot.
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Brise Soleil Materials
Many different materials can be used for brise soleil. The one you choose will depend upon various different factors, including the design and function of the building, the project budget, and the climate. Some common choices include stainless steel, aluminium, galvanised steel, perforated mesh and – you guessed it – timber!
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Benefits of Timber Brise Soleil
Timber makes a great choice for brise soleil because not only is it environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and highly attractive, but it also has a low thermal conductivity, meaning it will insulate your building as well. Below, we outline some other key benefits of timber brise soleil.
Lower Building Costs
Using passive heat control measures like brise soleil means the internal temperature of your building will be lower, even in the height of summer. That means you’ll need to spend less money on air conditioning. On top of this, timber brise soleil systems are cost-effective and easy to install, resulting in a lower financial outlay at the outset.
More benefits of using wood for your project >
Ironically, placing brise soleil shades on the outside of a building can actually increase the amount of natural light. This is because brise soleil reduces the intensity of the light by deflecting but not blocking it entirely, and it reduces the need for blinds, curtains, or shutters, resulting in an uncluttered, light, open interior.
See more: How to Use Light in Building Design – Benefits of Using Natural Light in Your Building
Not only will brise soleil reduce your usage of fossil fuel powered air conditioning systems, but timber is one of the most eco-friendly building materials around. Trees remove large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, and at end-of-life, wood will naturally biodegrade.
At NORclad, we’re passionate about promoting wood as a natural and totally renewable resource. We take our position as one of the UK’s leading timber merchants seriously, ensuring the traceability of our supply chain through FSC or PEFC Chain of Custody Certification.
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Adds Visual Drama
Making your mark as an architect is exciting, and timber brise soleil can help you do it. From species choice to the way it is incorporated into the building, timber brise soleil offers great design flexibility. Using brise soleil as an aesthetic choice, not just a practical one, is becoming increasingly commonplace. Architects are aware that non-structural façades have the ability to totally transform the look of a building, without affecting the building’s fundamental shape and form.
See more: How to Design and Create a World Class Façade
Can Conceal Structure
Refurbishing large, obtrusive structures like carparks, supermarkets, and hospitals is easy with brise soleil. Installed as a curtain wall, slats or fins can break up a silhouette and soften the overall shape of a building, allowing it to blend better with its environment. Using timber is a low cost but highly effective way to improve the appearance of public space.
Find out more: Timber Fin Cladding for Carparks
Provides Noise Reduction
Wood is highly insulating, so a brise soleil made using timber can offer substantial benefits in terms of noise reduction. This will help create a more pleasant interior space, with a better aural environment. For offices, this can result in greater levels of productivity and focus. For houses, this can increase the standard of living. For carparks, this can mitigate traffic noise and the impact on surrounding buildings. The list goes on and on.
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High Quality Timber Cladding for Brise Soleil
At NORclad, we work closely with architects, designers, developers, and self-builders, helping more and more people realise the benefits of building with wood. Protecting a building from climactic conditions is an essential part of any project, and a timber brise soleil can be the perfect way to do just that.
Get a quote today or talk to a member of our team – let’s get your project moving!
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