How far can brise soleil span?

Although brise soleil systems have a practical purpose to provide shade from direct sunlight, they are also being installed as design features on modern buildings.

In a nutshell: 

  • There’s no limit to how far brise soleil systems can run across a building
  • The maximum span of blades between fixing points is determined by their strength-to-weight ratio
  • Additional loads from wind, snow and ice build-up must also be considered
  • Aluminium may need fewer fixing points than wood – spans of around 5m are possible
  • Modular cassette systems offer efficient off-site manufacture, and quicker and safer installation – but may only span up to 2m

That’s leading to questions from architects about how far brise soleil systems can run across the façade of building.

In theory, there’s no limit – whether we’re talking about a system of blades running across (or up and down) a building, or the more traditional ‘canopy’ style extending at right angles.

However, what architects, engineers and brise soleil specialists need to think about is the maximum span of individual blades between fixing points. Here, this distance is very much finite, and is determined by the strength-to-weight ratio of the blades (whether aluminium or timber) and any additional loads being placed on the system.

In most cases, aluminium blades will be lighter than wood, and can span longer distances with fewer fixing points. Specialists are likely to recommend maximum spans of around 5m for single-profile aluminium blades. But a robust support structure and strong brackets is required for all systems – even if it compromises the design intent for sleek lines and long runs. In these cases, concealed fixings are often used.

It's also important to consider that blades will have a maximum length for manufacture and installation (whether metal or wood), so long runs will require multiple joins.

This is also true for modular systems, which contain multiple blades within a pre-assembled cassette for efficient off-site manufacture, and quicker and safer installation. Individual cassettes will typically span no more than 2m, so long runs of brise soleil will require multiple assemblies.

Deciding on the optimum span for a brise soleil blade is often a balancing act between practical and aesthetic considerations. It’s therefore best to liaise with a brise soleil specialist as early in the project planning stage as possible.

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