What material is best for a brise soleil system?

When talking about brise soleil, it’s easy to think only about the blades. They’re typically aluminium or timber.

In a nutshell:

  • Aluminium and timber are commonly used for brise soleil blades
  • Stainless steel is used for support structures, brackets and fixings
  • Timber can look great but aluminium is a better all-rounder
  • Aluminium has better fire resistance, strength-to-weight-ratio and corrosion resistance
  • Today’s specialist powder-coatings can make aluminium look like wood, steel or terracotta

But there are other components too – such as the support structure, brackets, fixings and sidearms.

However, let’s begin by looking at the blades.

Timber blades

Timber can look great as a brise soleil material and is often the first choice for architects. However, whether it’s western red cedar, Siberian larch, accoya or American white oak, there are downsides.

Apart from the fact that prices are rising very sharply, timber is heavier than aluminium, which can span longer distances with fewer fixings, making it more labour intensive and expensive to install. Timber also needs specialist treatment to extend its life (increasing the cost) and won’t ever have a fire rating of higher than A2 (aluminium is considered non-combustible).

Aluminium blades

It’s hard to see past aluminium for brise soleil blades – and even claims that timber is more environmentally friendly don’t stand up as much as they used to.

Fire resistance, strength-to-weight-ratio and corrosion resistance all make aluminium an excellent choice. It also offers greater design possibilities, as it can be shaped, curved or extruded to achieve the architect’s vision... and that’s before considering the endless colour options for powder-coating and anodising.

Did you know?

Many brise soleil specialists offer advanced powder-coatings that can make aluminium look like wood. It’s even possible to use powder-coating to mimic Corten steel, or replicate the colour and texture of terracotta.

What about glass and steel?

Glass brise soleil blades sound like they wouldn’t work. But the glass is ‘fritted’ with ink and ground-up glass to make it opaque. Glass systems are top-end (with a price to match) but they can look great. Bespoke fixings are required, pushing up the cost further.

Steel is normally too heavy for brise soleil blades, but façade companies use it for the sub-structure, support systems, fixings and brackets.

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