Legacy louvre product restored for the modern world
New products generally mean new technology. Imagine then that an invention of the 1940’s could be the best choice, top performing product in its field when it is re-launched, without any enhancements, today? A simple, engineered product made to fine tolerances, providing control and diffusion of sun, heat, light and air. Sometimes, the simplest products are the best.
WHAT IS IT?
It is the world’s thinnest and lightest metal fabric, manufactured in the UK. 17 paper-thin durable bronze louvres are woven into every inch (25.4mm) of fabric. The louvres themselves are only two times thicker than a human hair and are angled to block all the sun’s heat, or re-direct light. For lighting direction, the standard 170 louvre angle provides an asymmetric light kick, alternatively a 00 angle of louvre provides symmetrical light beam.
WHERE AND HOW DID IT START?
It was invented in America in the late 1930’s by two senior research members of Dow Chemical and first manufactured in conjunction with the Borg-Warner Corporation. In 1941, the product was introduced to one of the most important 20th century architects Frank Lloyd Wright, who said of the material, “This is more important than even you can realise. Not just windows, but entire walls and sections of buildings could be screened and protected from the sun’s hot rays”.
Now known as MicroLouvre™, this same paper-thin louvred metal fabric is unique, multi-functional and now, more than ever, a product of our time. With its passive, angle selective, maintenance free technology, MicroLouvre™ supports all today’s energy saving, fire resistant and sustainable building performance requirements and also provides solutions for lighting glare, light pollution issues and lighting design.
WHERE HAS IT BEEN USED BEFORE?
The product, previously known as Koolshade® has been used in its various applications on a wide range of iconic buildings including the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, London’s Science Museum and Natural History Museum and the Louvre in Paris. Even the Hoover Building FBI Headquarters in Washington DC, Dallas Fort Worth Airport and Heathrow Airport have used it.
Some installations are now 50 years old and still going strong, with little to no maintenance required. Moreover, when used as window protection it ensures the wellbeing of occupants by allowing balanced daylighting and protects them from the sun’s heat and glare, whilst still providing unobstructed vision to the outside.
WHERE HAS IT BEEN IN RECENT YEARS?
Manufacturing was for many years based in Puerto Rico where it benefitted from US grants and tax incentives. Ironically then, it was the factory’s location that brought about the demise of the product. The factory was destroyed in 1989 by the North Caribbean’s strongest hurricane in a decade and although re-built, production was affected by months of power outages and supply chain problems and never recovered. Finally, the surviving, totally unique, wire weaving machinery was relocated to Texas but the business never fully recovered and production all but ceased by the start of the 21st century.
Andrew Cooper, the now owner of Smartlouvre Technology Limited first ‘discovered’ the product, almost unknown outside America, in the 1980’s. He became Koolshade®’s top distributor for the product in the UK and Middle East, but had to focus on other products with the ongoing supply problems of Koolshade® and the eventual ceasing of production.
It was only recently that Andrew Cooper learned that some of the wire weaving looms still existed and were in Texas gathering dust due to lack of investment. Always having believed that this product was exceptional and remained to have value in various applications, he set about the task of having the machines shipped over to Hampshire in the UK, along with the Texan born head technician Carter Gilbert, who has since settled in the area.
The original weaving machine design was a brilliant concept. Smartlouvre technicians have taken these machines, built in the 1940’s, and spent the most recent years modernising and computerising them. Ultimately though, the machines, the process and the material first produced back in the 1940’s remain the same today.
Smartlouvre have been manufacturing and supplying MicroLouvre™ to their customers and global distributors for several years now and are currently the only people in the world capable of doing so. The machines are totally unique, the product is unique and more importantly, in today’s natural and commercial climate, its performance is more comprehensive than any other sun protection product on the market.
WHO SHOULD BE USING IT NOW?
It is used by architects, designers and building engineers in multiple applications, primarily for solar shading but also, for bushfire protection, privacy screens, interior design, lighting design, light boxes and more.
In terms of solar shading, the unique MicroLouvre™ Koolshade® legacy stands alone and no other product compares. It blocks solar heat by stopping the sun from hitting the glass (and the building) in the first place. Black, paper thin bronze micro louvres soak up and then dissipate the sun’s heat, forcing it to the atmosphere outside like a chimney. No reflected or re-reflected light, just neutral, passive performance with perfect unfiltered natural daylighting.
As well as protection from solar heat gain and glare the product also provides cat 2 Hurricane Resistance; A1/A2 Fire Rating; no maintenance; highest classification Vision and high classification Daylight Utilisation, all with sustainability and 40-50 year durability.
Today, Smartlouvre continue to invest in the manufacturing of MicroLouvre™ products and are now focused on providing unique apprenticeships and training from their headquarters in Hampshire, UK, supporting our young engineers of the future.