Q&A with the Founder and Managing Director
This month we sat down with the Founder and Managing Director of Smartlouvre Technology Ltd, Andrew Cooper, to find out more about MicroLouvre, the fascinating history behind it, and the ups and downs of the business over the years.
When did you first start manufacturing MicroLouvre, and why were you drawn to it?
I was a 5th Generation Blind Maker. Our original family business was founded in 1876 in the East End of London. My father was responsible for introducing the first modern-day concept of the internal roller blind to the UK.
I first saw what was then called Koolshade in 1976 and immediately recognised the product's potential, but a UK distributorship was not available at that time.
In 1983 we sold our family business, and I was then offered a Koolshade Distributorship for the UK and the Middle East by the American owners .
I started my own business, Koolshade UK Ltd, and we began fabricating the Koolshade screens. Even all those years ago, the Koolshade product was, if you’ll excuse the pun, light years ahead of its time.
We achieved great results from the start, with principal UK architects using the screens on London Heathrow Airport, London Gatwick Airport, heritage buildings like Peckham Police Station, and high-rise office buildings in London and Portsmouth.
When the production factory in Puerto Rico was wiped out by a hurricane, production suddenly stopped, which seemed like the business’s end to me.
In the early 2000s, I heard that the American who had been trying to continue the Koolshade business was in severe financial difficulties and on the verge of bankruptcy. I decided to fund his company so that in 2003, we were able to bring the priceless weaving machines back to the UK.
In 2014, I relocated the business, now called Smartlouvre Technology Ltd, with the Koolshade product, now named MicroLouvre, to our own dedicated factory.
We now weave this totally unique product, here in the UK, using some raw materials still purchased from the long-standing American suppliers and from our Birmingham UK wire supplier and extrusions, all sourced in the UK.
What makes MicroLouvre unique?
MicroLouvre is quite literally only one of its kind, and it is unlike anything else.
There are many different types of sun shading and glare control systems. Whether they be the limited rigid brise soleil eyelid type, external venetian blinds, or simply just internal blinds - there are dozens of similar but different products, virtually all imported and not nearly as efficient.
MicroLouvre is the only system to incorporate performance characteristics for solar, weather, insect, glare, daylighting, privacy and security, and visual contact with the outside, all in one product.
Is being eco-friendly very important to you?
Having spent over 30 years championing Life Safety product standards and Building Regulations in the Passive Fire Industry, you become more conscious of our environment and helping to stop Climate Change.
MicroLouvre saves over 68% peak air conditioning, which is great for a business trying to save money as it reduces energy bills, creates a healthy working environment which increases productivity and, in turn, profit, and reduces the need to replace expensive cooling units frequently. Moreover, it's also great for the environment as this reduces CO2 emissions! MicroLouvre is also 100% recyclable and is made from more than 90% recycled scrap materials.
We all need to do our bit to try and slow down global warming, if not for ourselves, then for the future generations that have played no part in destroying our planet but will face the disastrous consequences that we have created.
What would you say is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome with your product?
Apart from the practical problems of renovating and modernising our bespoke weaving looms, the biggest hurdle is communicating how such a simple but staggeringly technically complex, multi-functioning system works and should be used.
It’s very difficult to get across that multitude of uses and staggeringly good results when it looks like such a simple product. Still, all the outcomes, such as up to 100% heat block and complying to the highest UK fire safety standard, have all been tested and proven by external scientists like Fraunhofer ISE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - take a look at our research papers to see for yourself!
Where do you see Smartlouvre in 5 years’ time?
I’m well past my sell-by date now but have wept at the demise of the UK Manufacturing and Engineering base for decades. Apprentices are or should be the generational lifeblood for UK Industry, and this is all but ignored.
I want our company to grow with the sort of ‘apprentice greenhouse’ that is so commonplace in SMEs in countries like Germany. To do this, I would like to see MicroLouvre screens being fabricated and sold through a network of Distributors worldwide, using this incredible bronze metal fabric, Made in Britain, on all and any types of building. I know that’s a big ask, but you’ve got to dream big to get big.
If you have any questions about MicroLouvre or Smartlouvre Technology Ltd, please take a look at the information on our website or give us a call on +44 239 245 6333 and we’ll be happy to answer any of your queries.