The Solar Shade Pyramid System

The Solar Shade Pyramid System is a breakthrough way of designing and specifying successful solar shade projects. The system works through the idea of merging function and form in order to reach successful design. With the advent of technological advances in solar shadings, they have become more than decorations and should be considered part of a building system.  This system focuses on the various areas of function which include levels of function, light, privacy and glare issues as well as installations challenges and LEED points. Once function has been defined, we move up the pyramid to decide upon form. This is where wiring and termination issues are designed, fabrics are selected, and pockets and fascias are planned for. The architect will learn that once these base areas of the pyramid are decided upon then complete system design has been achieved, and specifications are complete and accurate.

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The Solar Shade Pyramid System is a strategy for Architects and Designers to specify Solar Shadings and it’s systems for Commercial and Residential projects. At the base of the pyramid there are 5 needs of the project which addresses function.


1) LEED Strategies

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Which window covering strategies can contribute toward LEED total points? There are five LEED strategies where window coverings can contribute most to LEED. They are Daylighting, Light Pollution Reduction, Energy Reduction, Recycled Content and Indoor Environmental Quality.

2) Light, Heat Reflection and Glare Control

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What does the project require to control the light, keep the thermal energy out and remedy glare issues? These questions are answered through deciding upon which are the best fabrics for light control? How does layering fabrics provide flexibility with controlling the light and privacy? How does openness and color affect fabric transparency? What will be the specific blackout strategies?  Finally, what strategies in selecting the fabrics will address heat reflection and glare control?  


3) Level of Function

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What is required in terms of control of the shades? What type of manual control is needed? Among the many motorized options, which power source would be suitable: Line Voltage or Low Voltage, Battery or Solar Powered, Wireless or Digital? Then which are the best types of Control devices? Wireless, Wired, Virtual or Remote?


4) Automation & Integration

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Does the end user require remote access to the shading system? Does the shading system need to integrate with other controllers?


5) Installation Challenges

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At the time of installation, how will the installers deal with the mounting of the shades? Will there be adequate blocking, any foreseen obstructions or very limited access for the shades? Does the Architect need to design the shades in order to clear obstructions?


Level Two – Form

Once the needs of the project have been determined, then the second level of the pyramid comes to play. This level is where design decisions are made. All the choices of function now lead the Architect to the 3 choices of form.

1) Fabric Selection

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Based upon the needs of light control, heat reflection and glare control, The Architect can now select the proper fabrics to meet any of the requirements of the project. What is the level of openness for the desired light control and visibility? Which color fabric would reflect heat the best and/or control glare?


2) Pockets & Fascias

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When deciding to conceal the shades, a pure design decision, the options fall into either hiding the roller in a pocket or a fascia. Perhaps a first floor installation would require a Headbox in order to conceal the roller from the street view.  


3) Wiring & Termination Design

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Since the level of control is decided upon as well as the need for automation or integration, the wiring strategy and termination design can be finalized. Where will the wiring run and where will the termination be located?


Complete System Design

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After the 2 base levels of the pyramid has been determined, it is now possible to take the elements of Function and Form to the level of design. With the assistance of the Spec Wizard 3 Part Specs is easily completed. 


The answers to all of these questions are addressed in the AIA HSW Sustainable Design course called The Solar Shade Pyramid System. If your firm is in the New York Metro area and you would like to book a Lunch & Learn program, please contact us via email at  

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