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From Vitruvius to virtue

According to Roman architect Vitruvius, architecture should satisfy the three principles of firmitas, utilitas and venustas or translated: durability, utility and beauty.


However since the 1st century much has changed. Added to the strength, function and aesthetic of a building, architecture now has to satisfy the need for sustainability.

Sustainability without compromise of the centuries-old principles as outlined by Vitruvius and that meets ‘Green building’ standards of energy-efficiency, space conservation, use of eco-friendly building material, reduced waste and limited impact on the environment.

Architecture is arguably the most challenging of the arts. Designing the spaces in which we work, play and relax in a way that appreciates the unique needs of the individual brief and the holistic needs of our ever-developing world. Although architects through the centuries have worked within this challenge, architecture has come a long way since the times of Vitruvius and even the pioneering green designs of 1920s architect Rudolph Schindler. Most specifically in the legislation of the practice; the most recent in South Africa being the amendment to SANS 10400 XA; our National Building Regulation was updated in late 2011 to stipulate the energy-efficient standards of all new buildings and additions and alterations to existing buildings.

This regulation impacts the design and specifications of many elements of a building, from floor to roof, including windows and doors. Well- designed and finished windows and doors can improve the energy-efficiency of a building by maximising the heating and cooling of natural elements such as daylight and natural ventilation.

In keeping with Louis Sullivan’s 19th century precept to architectural design, the form of shutters certainly follows function and they are therefore the perfect answer to the architectural call for sustainability.

Shutters are ideal window and door finishes to optimise an architectural cross-ventilation cooling strategy in which the size and position of windows and doors are designed to ensure that the predominant breeze passes through the building. The louvres help direct this natural ventilation and allow the entire opening space to be utilised while controlling the sun’s light and heat.

With a slide, swing or fold, shutters can be fully retracted from the window or door opening without impeding this natural airflow.

Windows and doors are responsible for the majority of a building’s heat loss so there is specific attention focused on the material used, the size, the position and the finishing of windows and doors in the updated SANS 10400 XA. “Wooden shutters have natural insulation properties providing an effective barrier preventing heat passing through the glazing of a window or glass door,” says Stephen Palmer, managing director of American shutters. “Exterior shutters effectively insulate a home by preventing the outdoor heat from passing through the glazing in hot summer temperatures. Interior shutters are equally effective in preventing the indoor warmth of a home from being lost through glazing in colder temperatures.”

As the pioneering manufacturer of shutters in South Africa, American shutters sources the best raw material, adopts the best international manufacturing and installation processes, implements the most stringent quality standards and boasts the largest range of customised shutters and blind products. “In the almost 30 years in the industry we have been working with South African architects we have seen the shift in specifying criteria for window and door finishes. Through our ongoing international research we identified the need for energy-efficient green building solutions within our industry and understood that this trend was soon to hit South Africa. We therefore proactively ensured that our products met all the requirements of energy-efficiency, environmental-friendliness and sustainability and were thus the ready and perfect solutions to these specifying criteria,” says Stephen Palmer.

American shutters’ range of products satisfies Vitruvius’ architectural need for durability, function and beauty and the virtue of today’s need for sustainability.



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