6 problems schools have with blinds (and how to avoid them)

Apr 18, 2017

1. How do I prevent solar glare without blocking daylight?

Blinds block daylight, they are supposed to, but you may be surprised to know that this fact is a growing problem as we learn more about the positive impact daylighting has on people.

Studies show students educated in full spectrum light (daylight) are healthier and attended school 3.2 to 3.8 days more per year. Plus, the additional Vitamin D received by students meant they had 9 times less dental decay. Now can you see why blocking students from daylight can be an issue.

However, with the huge increase in the use of multimedia projectors, screens and whiteboards in the education environment daylight can have detrimental effects causing eye strain, lower concentration and lower performance levels from students. We are in catch-22 where daylight helps and hinders performance.

A solution for environments with this specific issue is to source blinds with Anti-Glare fabrics.

These intelligent textiles are designed to bring natural light and Vitamin D into your learning environment whilst filtering out intrusive and uncomfortable solar glare - setting students up for peak performance and no tooth decay!

2. Blackout blind or Blackout unit, which do I need?

Both Blackout blinds and Blackout units are often installed in science laboratories but there are quite considerable differences between the two options. One big difference is cost, so which one is right?

Let’s look at the differences.

A blackout blind is typically a standard roller blind with a blackout fabric. This means that whilst the fabric has 0% light transmission factor there is a light bleed at the top, sides and bottom of the blind. You can still see but the blind is blocking out approximately 80% of visible light (depending on the installation).

A blackout unit is a cased unit with a cassette head box, side and bottom channels which creates a virtual 100% blackout environment. A literally can’t-see-hand-in-front-of-your-face type of blackout.

A blackout blind may well work for most educational requirements but if you have specific experiments such as working with photography and negatives then the light a blackout blind allows through is enough to destroy your work and the extra cost of a blackout unit is more than worthwhile.

3. Are my blinds child safety compliant?

Child Safety law, EN13120:2009+A1:2014, applies to chains/cords on blinds and curtains. The law requires that new blinds must be "safe by design" or be supplied with the appropriate child safety devices installed. Whilst this is the responsibility of the manufacturer and installer you can protect yourself by being acquainted with what you need to look out for.

In a nutshell, the law requires that when/ where there is a loop present, or could be created, a safety device must be installed at the point of the manufacture. These safety devices either break under pressure, tension the cord/chain or provide the facility to store cord(s) out of reach. Professional installers must fit these devices. The standard also imposes a maximum cord and chain length.

All blinds must also continue to carry safety warnings. The main standard is supported by two additional standards: EN 16433:2014 and EN 16434:2014 which relate to testing requirements.

4. How can I minimise breakages?

Vandalism and damage is unfortunately often unavoidable in high traffic educational environments. If broken blinds and damage to fabrics could be prevented it would save time and money. Things to look out for are;

a) Blind bottom bars. On some systems, these are easily ripped off. This either creates a weapon, or just damage that is typically irreparable. A solution to preventing this is to have a double stitched sewn in the bottom bar on the blind.

b) Fabrics. All fabrics are prone to getting dirty, splashed or marked especially in arts, culinary and science zones. To solve this a PVC covered textile is more resilient to stains and can be wiped and scrubbed.

5. Can I prevent unauthorised usage of the blinds?

It may sound simple but opening blinds when they shouldn’t be can not only offer too much glare, but can also cause distraction and privacy issues. On the contrary, if blinds are always kept lowered it could stifle students. A couple of practical options are;

a) Operation via a detachable crank handle is a cost-effective option to ensure only authorised personnel can raise or lower blinds. The blind is wound up/down by a crank handle to the desired location and then easily removed and stored in a safe place to prevent any further control.

b) Operation via motorisation. Remote controls can be programmed to blinds individually or in banks meaning you can operate rooms, elevations or the whole blinding from one remote.

6. Are my large windows going to cause large problems?

As daylight is now an increasingly important feature for the wellbeing of students it’s commonplace for schools to have large halls, atriums or high glazed areas.

This has commonly caused large problems, if the specification and fixing is not diagnosed properly.

Inadequate blinds can mean the top barrel bows, the fabric ripples or the roll up is misaligned, leading to fabrics wearing and fraying.

Poor assessment of substrate and fixing will result in the weight of the blind pulling its brackets out resulting in the blind falling down. So yes, reasons to be serious.

To prevent this, firstly ensure the blinds are guaranteed under manufacture warrantees and secondly consider insisting your provider installs a back-bar profile. This has two benefits;

a) The weight loading is spread across multiple fixing points meaning the risk of a fixing pulling out is dramatically reduced or even eliminated.

b) Reputable blinds suppliers will provide a back-bar that ensures the blinds are fixed perfectly square so roll up is perfectly aligned, eliminating roll off and premature fraying of the fabric.

Another option to be aware of are side guide wires. These are taut wires fixed at the top and bottom of the blinds which the fabric runs down to ensure that the roll up is always true on the blind.

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