Healthier Buildings through Innovative Window and Door Technologies

Screens, shades and smart solutions for year-round comfort and design

Written by C. Esther De Wolde, CEO of Phantom Screens

COVID-19 has undoubtedly rattled the building and design industry in Canada this year by shifting customer demands, especially as it pertains to living spaces and home comfort.  We’re seeing people become more environmentally conscious and seeking more functional, energy efficient, healthier and aesthetically pleasing spaces.  With many of us spending more time living and working at home than ever before, we are yearning for living spaces that are not only visually appealing but also feel healthier and more expansive.

There is an abundance of energy efficient design solutions available in the market, but within the fenestration sector we’re observing some key areas in which homeowners and design/build professionals are finding cost effective ways to achieve comfort, reduce energy consumption, promote well-being and enhance enjoyable spaces.

Indoor Air Quality and Passive Cooling

Air quality is listed among the top green features in homes according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), along with energy efficiency and ultimately saving money.  COVID-19 has brought to light the importance of clean air and proper circulation within living spaces.  Fresh air is often overlooked, even though poor ventilation and air quality can have a significant impact on the building and its residents.  As we know, poor air quality produces a myriad of challenges, including excessive humidity and the build up of harmful pollutants. In many cases, finding ways to let fresh outside air into a building resolves many of these challenges, promotes occupant health and makes people feel better in their living and working spaces.

To achieve improved air quality and passive cooling, solutions such as retractable screens allow fresh air to come in through doors, windows and oversized openings while keeping the bugs out, without blocking views.  When screens are not in use, they disappear out of sight by recessing into housings or ceiling cavities, preserving the look of your design.

Integrating retractable screens is one solution that can manage the challenges many build professionals encounter with large openings, such as opening glass wall systems, without detracting from their architectural beauty.  This can also promote passive cooling through cross-ventilation particularly when openings are strategically placed to maximize the direction of outside airflow throughout the indoor space.  When the screens are needed, they let in the fresh air while filtering out the unwelcome elements such as insects.  This helps maintain comfortable temperatures and natural ventilation.  Passive cooling also decreases the amount of time that energy burners like air conditioning systems need to run, leading to lower electricity costs.

Leveraging Solar Energy

This time of year, many of us are longing for more sunshine as the days grow shorter.  However, when it comes to managing the temperature of the space the sun may or may not prove to be beneficial to the home.  Lack of sun, poor solar orientation of living spaces, insufficient insulation and air leakage can lead to dramatically cold winters and hot summers.  However, managing these factors with the right solutions can help control temperature fluctuation and improve resident comfort, not to mention lower electricity costs by reducing the need for air conditioning or heating.

By integrating solutions such as exterior mounted shades during hot seasons, studies show that building owners can experience a 65 to 77 per cent reduction in UV rays and solar heat gain within homes.  Depending on the shade’s fabric color, solar heat can either be reflected or absorbed to reduce heat.  During cooler times of the year, the shades can be retracted to allow solar energy into the space to promote natural warming, saving even more money.

Managing Daylight and Enhancing Views

According to HGTV, homeowners will be seeking more natural light in their homes in 2021.  Biophilia, a term that garnered much attention this year, is the concept that showcases how nature has a profound and fundamental impact on our minds and bodies as scientific studies show.  As a result, designers and architects are exploring how biophilia can be integrated and leveraged in living spaces to help promote health and happiness through connections with the natural environment.

Therefore, we are also seeing the popularization of folding glass walls and oversized doors as a means for people to open their living areas to the great outdoors.  These openings provide a host of aesthetic and health benefits; however, they can also increase exposure to unregulated temperatures, potential entry of pests, and UV – environmental conditions that detract from the intended benefits of these openings.  Retractable screens or exterior motorized shades can help clients manage these challenges, providing shading when required and retracting out of sight to restore fully open views when sunlight isn’t an issue.  Daylight management can be client-driven or automated for ultimate convenience.

Environmental Sensors and Automation Integration

Smart technology has taken the design industry by storm in recent years.  It is estimated that the home automation system market will be worth $63.2 billion by 2025.  Within the fenestration industry, we’ve seen a significant uptick in innovation as it relates to smart technology over the last few years.  Going beyond smart home speakers and appliances, products such as motorized screens and shades offer users convenience and comfort at the touch of a button.  With automated controls like environmental sensors that can detect and respond to sun, wind and rain conditions – motorized screens can retract or lower at particular times of the day depending on outdoor conditions.

46 per cent of people state that convenience is the primary reason behind purchasing smart home technology products.  Products such as motorized screens can be connected to smart building automation systems to deliver features like voice activation, real-time weather response and solar tracking.  All of these capabilities deliver ease of use, bringing greater usability and accessibility to building owners. 

It is without question we’ve seen a dramatic shift in industry trends this year due to the ‘new normal’ and these will undoubtedly continue to change as we head into 2021.  However, with growing demands for healthier and more enjoyable living spaces, there is a significant opportunity for industry professionals to adapt their designs and innovate to make living spaces more enjoyable than ever before.

C Esther DeWolde

About the Author

C. Esther De Wolde is the Chief Executive Office of Phantom Screens anda founding partner of Phantom Screens in 1992. The Abbotsford, B.C. based company is now North America’s leading provider of retractable screens – which remain concealed out of sight until they’re needed. Phantom’s products provide customers with insect protection, solar shading, climate control, enhanced privacy and expand the functionality of outdoor spaces.