How do you make sure your brise soleil project meets all building regulations?


In a nutshell

  • There’s no easy answer, as most brise soleil systems are bespoke
  • Compliance with building regulations needs expert input from structural engineers, fire safety experts and specialist consultants
  • Fortunately, these specialists should be on your brise soleil company’s speed dial list
  • Regulations about structural design and fire safety are the most important
  • Although you should leave it to the experts, it will help to know the basics about structural loadings (particularly wind load) and fire rating codes
  • Need to understand more of the fine detail? Check out BS EN 1990 to BS EN 1999

Here are some things you probably already know. Building regulations are all about making sure your project is safe, sustainable and fit for purpose. They’re contained in the Approved Documents of the Building Regulations and available to read online. 

However, clients, architects and contractors still have a lot of questions about brise soleil regs. Why is that? Basically, because building regulations can be challenging at the best of times if you’re not an expert. But also because pretty much every brise soleil project is bespoke, and is subject to many of the 16 areas of building regs. Yes, 16. 

Fortunately, there are five key areas you should really be focusing on.

5 areas to think about

1.0 Structural design – How well do the blades and fixings stand up to the loads placed upon them, particularly wind load?

The safety and sustainability of buildings is covered by detailed guidance manuals – the Approved Documents of the Building Regulations. They’re based on ‘Eurocode’ standards, which have been adopted into GB law. When it comes to brise soleil, three are particularly important:

  • EN 1990: Basis of structural design – Establishes overarching principles and requirements for the ‘safety, serviceability and durability’ of new structures.
  • EN 1999 – Design of aluminium structures - Covers fire resistance but is mainly concerned with metal fatigue, stress and damage to aluminium components under loading (including wind).
  • EN 1993 – Design of steel structures - Provides basic design rules for the construction of buildings and other civil engineering works in steel.

2.0 Fire safety – What materials should your brise soleil system be made from? What about fire treatment and coatings?

  • Timber is naturally combustible and can be treated to be more fire resistant – but not to full A1 standards. Fire treatment is also expensive.

  • Aluminium is considered non-combustible (A1), but coatings can melt and drip. So it’s not always cut and dry that aluminium is best for brise soleil.

3.0 Acoustics – Is wind noise going to be an issue, especially in exposed or maritime locations?

This isn’t a silly question. ‘Harmonic resonance’ is an important consideration in brise soleil design, and is covered in Part E of the Building Regulations documents. Brise soleil specialist use 3D modelling, wind tunnel testing and engagement with acoustic engineers to better understand the issue of wind noise, and can subsequently design the system to reduce the risk.

4.0 Energy conservation – How will brise soleil reduce solar gain and meet energy saving legislation?

While the sun can provide natural light and heat for buildings (reducing energy use and emissions) too much solar radiation can result in glare or over-heating, which may need to be controlled be by air conditioning). 

Finding the right balance within a brise soleil system to comply with Part L of the Building Regulations is typically the job of an experienced M&E consultant. It’s then the role of the façade company to use their experience to meet the specification.

5.0 Ventilation – Can brise soleil be used as a ventilation product?

Quick answer: Yes. You’ll often find them on car parks – not to block out the sun but as an architectural feature that also ventilates the building and helps disperse exhaust fumes. When used in this way, brise soleil can also reduce light pollution from car headlights. Both topics are covered by Part F of the Building Regulations.

How can a façade expert help?

Your brise soleil specialist can help guide you through the regulations. But don’t expect them to have all the answers. 

Façade companies are experts on the design, manufacture and installation of brise soleil, but the success of a project will depend on a collaborative process involving various consultants.

At Maple, we know that the best way to help clients is to combine our product expertise with advice, modelling and engineering calculations from structural engineers, fire marshals, acoustic consultants and other specialists. And it’s the same across the industry.

What does a typical compliant process look like?

  • Engineers and consultants are commissioned by the architect, main contractor or façade company – and they all work together
  • The architect’s design intent is translated into a product specification or drawings by the façade company
  • Commissioned engineers and consultants liaise with brise soleil experts to ensure the design is fully complaint
  • The process could involve advice, modelling and engineering calculations – and even mock-ups from the façade company
  • Façades use their specific experience and expertise to progress the project through final design, manufacture and installation

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