Curtains for everyone: a go-to guide to blinds for any facility

by Sophie Berrill
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Shannon Vos

Blinds may seem like one small aspect in the grand scheme of a facility. But the humble blind has a significant role to play in everything from the energy efficiency of a building to the UV protection and comfort of the tenants inside.

There are many options for facility managers to consider when choosing the right product, including materials and smart features for both indoor and outdoor blinds.

To help us make sense of this niche trade, we spoke to Amelia Taylor, a member of the board of directors at the Blind Manufacturers’ Association of Australia (BMAA). Read on for a window into the current state of blinds in 2023.

How far have blinds come?

Blind technology has advanced significantly over the past 50 years, providing greater convenience and energy efficiency, as well as a wider range of options for FMs, architects, builders and consumers.

The first key advancement has been motorisation. According to the BMAA, motorised blinds and shades have become increasingly popular. They often run on batteries and can be operated remotely, allowing users to control their blinds hands- free and with greater precision.

As is to be expected in 50 years, the industry has also made important strides towards improving safety features for children and pets. Cordless options are now widely available, and motorisation has eliminated the need for cords altogether in many cases.

An expansion in the range of materials gives more choice than ever before when it comes to style, durability, environmental impact and function.

Automation and smart building integration

Automation is no longer just for high tech six-star rated buildings.

Many blinds and shades now come with smart features, such as voice control, automated schedules, and integration
with smart building systems like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. According to Taylor, companies like Somfy are leading the industry in allowing Australians to control their homes as they like.

Replacing wood for engineered materials 

Timber shutters or venetians have decreased in popularity due to the higher number of engineered woods now on the market and the increasing cost of real timber.

Timber’s engineered alternative is an option for those who want the look of real wood but the durability of engineered materials. Many are made using a composite material that is resistant to moisture and warping.

Sustainable materials

There is a growing trend towards using sustainable materials like bamboo or recycled materials in blind manufacturing, Taylor tells Facility Management.

Many Sunscreen Fabrics are now 100 percent polyethylene terephthalate (PET) woven fabric, containing a minimum of 60 to 100 percent recycled materials.

“For example, one square metre of GreenView Sunscreen Fabric is made from four post-consumer PET bottles,” Taylor says.

They are PVC, halogen, lead and formaldehyde-free, with weavers committed to a healthier approach to the environment.

blinds

Office space uses dual blinds to ensure an ideal working environment
for staff. Image: Supplied

Energy efficiency 

Blinds play an important role in the overall energy efficiency of a building.

One of the main ways that blinds do this is in their ability to control the amount of sunlight and heat that enters a room through the adjustment of their angle or position. This helps reduce the need for artificial lighting and air-conditioning, which can result in significant energy savings.

Blinds can also lower heat loss and heating costs during the colder months. When closed, blinds can create an insulating layer of air between the window and the room.

How can FMs choose the best product?

There is such a thing as the right blinds for the right facility. Before anyone hits purchase, it’s important to evaluate a site’s specific needs and then properly maintain and use blinds to maximise their energy- saving benefits.

The first key consideration is the purpose and function of the space where the blinds will be installed. Different types of blinds are designed to serve specific purposes, like reducing glare, enhancing privacy or providing insulation.

The right product paired with smart automation will assist with the amount of natural light in a room. Automated window coverings help reduce glare and improve visibility and acoustics, creating a more comfortable and productive work environment. They can also reduce distractions and increase privacy, which can be beneficial in shared spaces like offices or conference rooms.

Materials are another salient consideration. Ideally, blinds should complement the overall design aesthetic of the space, but more critically, they should be safe for children and meet industry safety standards. Other important factors include durability, ease of maintenance, moisture resistance and insulation properties.

“For example, if the blinds will be exposed to moisture, a material like PVC may be a good choice,” says Taylor.

Some blinds may require more frequent cleaning or upkeep than others. This can impact their longevity and overall cost- effectiveness.

“It’s important to consider the maintenance requirements of different types of blinds and factor that into the decision-making process,” she continues.

“Additionally, it’s worth considering the availability and cost of replacement parts or repairs, in case any issues arise with the blinds over time.”

Finally, to help FMs find the most energy-efficient products, the BMAA has a new Window Coverings and Outdoor Shades for Energy Savings (WincovER) program. Currently designed for residential applications only, it’s a star-rating program that compares the energy performance of window coverings and outdoor shades.

This article originally appeared in the ‘People Issue’ of the Facility Management digital magazine. Grab your free copy here. Existing subscribers can read the magazine here.

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