Earth Day, Passive Solar & the High Performance Shading Story of Innovative Openings

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, this 50th anniversary of Earth Day feels very special to us at Innovative Openings. Earth Day originated with a movement in the 1970s to raise awareness about the state of our planet. It shaped a generation committed to keeping our water, air, and food supply clean and safe while reducing human impact on our planet. Ultimately, this made us think a lot harder about all aspects of our lives, including the structures we live and work in.

Over time, energy efficiency and passive solar warming became important architectural design criteria. Clean, renewable passive solar energy helped heat buildings without the use of traditional fossil fuel energy sources. The focus on positive impact on the environment and efficiency behind Earth Day was the inspiration for Dave Friedlander and myself to found Innovative Openings in 1980. That influence above all shaped the company’s mission and our original product offerings.

The Evolution of Passive Solar Becomes Seed Idea for Innovative Openings

Using passive solar design for better living started with the ancient Greek concept of orienting buildings toward the sun. This heated the thermal mass of the buildings, making them more comfortable. Later, the Romans added glass in front of the stone mass to retain the heat. Before the year 1200 A.D., the Anasazi people used passive solar techniques to make their homes more comfortable. They built under large, south-facing overhangs because they were shielded from the higher summer sun’s heat. Similarly, the lower winter sun warmed the rock faces and the people within.

Fast forward to the 1930s and ’40s. Architects like George Keck and Frank Lloyd Wright began incorporating passive solar design concepts into their projects. They used more south-facing windows to take best advantage of the sun’s warmth and light. By the time we got to the 1970s & ’80s, passive solar design was known as “mass behind glass”. The goal was to use the home as a solar heat collector and therefore lower its energy consumption.

We joined the movement by focusing our company on energy efficient window shading systems. We wanted to help homeowners and businesses control heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. Energized by architect, author, and educator Edward Mazria, we followed the principles of passive solar design laid out in his 1979 work: The Passive Solar Energy Book. Mazria’s passive solar design approach drove our product line choices even as a brand new industry was created under the “Window Energy” banner. Manufacturers responded with a variety of new high-performance window shade products, and we started out offering innovations like Pease Rolling Shutters, Solar Screens, and Window Quilts.

Window Shading for Energy Efficiency and Comfort in Today’s Design

High-performance shading continues to be a key architectural design element, and today Innovative Openings is the award-winning manufacturer of Insolroll® Solar Shades. The effective glare and heat control of solar shade fabric decreases a building’s energy usage, as well as its need for artificial lighting. Solar shades are fully retractable, allowing more flexibility for passive solar warming during colder months. The positive impact on energy demand is clear and continues to increase.

Occupant wellness and satisfaction benefits are also clear thanks to natural light and a visual connection to the world outside. Insolroll’s combination of high performance shading and user comfort in commercial office and hospital projects has made a huge impact on energy demand while increasing the comfort and productivity of the building occupants.

Both commercial and residential spaces benefit from solar shades. Schools, restaurants, and homes lower their carbon footprints and environmental impact. With the Insolroll brand in the product lineup, we continue to provide an impressive array of energy efficient shading solutions today.

Where are We Headed?

As we persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth Day reminds us all of the commitment needed to  protect our planet and future generations. Together, we must push through this health crisis so we can get back to the work at hand. Let’s stay focused on the ways that we can protect Mother Earth moving forward.  Let’s continue to create and innovate to find better solutions to environmental problems. We can do this, and Innovative Openings will continue to do our part. True to our roots, we will remain focused on energy efficient and environmental solutions for your home, your business, and our planet. We’re all in this together.

Rick Pease, Innovative Openings Co-founder

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