A thoroughly modern problem – large bifold doors and hot interiors!

Co-Founder
Ruth Marshall

In the pursuit of open, light-filled living spaces, large bifolding doors have become a hallmark of modern architecture. Yet, with this expansive embrace of natural light comes a thermal challenge—excessive heat gain. As garden designers, we work often with homeowners who find that the gorgeous open plan living/dining/kitchen rooms they have created are almost unusable in hot weather. In conversation with Jonathan Airey, CEO of Rase Outdoor Living, Ruth Marshall, CEO, explores this further…

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The problem we see..

Echoing the CGLA experience, Jonathan quotes a recent client ….

“The glazing is gorgeous but our kitchen/dining room was almost unusable in the hot summer of 2022. We also find the low winter sun an issue which made us reach for the window blinds too frequently. We needed to find a way to make it cooler and more usable without obscuring our lovely views which were why we put the bifolds in in the first place”

The glazing is designed to give fantastic views out over the garden or surrounding country, yet it seems as if the only solution is to add blinds which rather defeat the purpose. There are some cunning architectural solutions that can (and perhaps should!) be considered as part of the building design, and we will talk about this in an upcoming blog sharing a discussion with an architect about the topic. However, if you already have the building and the problem what can you do?

Enter aluminium pergolas, the silent heroes that not only complement the aesthetics but actively address and mitigate the thermal issues associated with large bifolding doors.

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The design approach (making it pretty and practical!)

As garden designers, we are looking to maximise views from the house, encourage the residents to use the space as much as possible, and to create a beautiful and practical space. Increasingly, with a focus on indoor/outdoor living, this means adding covered outside space, and adapting the garden to fit the modern designs of the houses. Adding some shade and cover to the garden used to be a “niche” request but is now near the top of many clients’ wishlists.

Positioned strategically above large bifolding doors, aluminum pergolas act as a shield against the relentless onslaught of sunlight. By reflecting a significant portion of the sunlight away, they curb the intensity of heat entering your living space, offering a more comfortable and temperate indoor environment.

The pergola can be powder-coated to a colour to work well with your garden scheme, and can include lighting, heating and even a sound system so that it acts as an extension to the house.

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How it works (the more technical bit!)

Jonathan says…

The synergy between large bifolding doors and aluminium pergolas contributes to a more energy-efficient home. By managing thermal gain effectively, homeowners reduce the need for excessive air conditioning, leading to energy savings and a diminished environmental footprint. This not only aligns with sustainable living principles but also adds a practical dimension to the allure of modern design.

Large bifolding doors often mean varying sunlight angles throughout the day. With adjustable louvers, homeowners gain precise control over the amount of sunlight streaming through. This dynamic control not only optimizes natural light levels but allows for the strategic management of thermal gain.

The louvers can be closed to for a rain proof shelter, and screens can be added to the sides to give flexible wind, sun and weather protection, something that retractable blinds cannot offer.”

These structures can be created beskpoke to fit your property- with spans of up to 7m, and crafted to fit your needs.

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What about the cost?

These are not cheap structures, coming in at £20-30k fully fitted. They do however last well and are very low maintenance, adding functionality and value to the property. Given the investment it is definitely worth designing in well to your overall garden, ensuring that you make the space work well and the details are properly considered.

Conclusion

Aluminium pergola structures, when thoughtfully integrated, offer a sophisticated solution to thermal gain control, allowing homeowners to curate an outdoor haven that is as comfortable as it is stylish.

Compared with pull out automated blinds they offer greater flexibility and functionality and are lower maintenance and more contemporary in feel than traditional wooden structures.

We find that the flexibility of these structures, the low maintenance and attractive finishes fit almost all building styles and garden designs if well planned and executed. Nice internal blinds can be things of beauty, but rarely the right solution to this problem!

If you are looking at pergola’s as a solution to your heat/light challenges then contact Jonathan at Rase Outdoor Living directly, or if you are thinking of incorporating into a wider garden design project then feel free to get in touch

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CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here