When the Glen Ellyn, Illinois Elementary School District decided it was time to build four new elementary schools, the architects who designed the building were very specific about their choice of solar control.

First of all, classroom windows in the new schools had to be furnished with motorized shades. The main reason for this is rather sobering. 

“One of the concerns is that should there ever be a need to lock down a school, they wanted to be able to quickly throw a switch to lower the shades so your movements can’t be seen,” according to Al Marx of Shadeology, who won the bid to do the installation. “You don’t have time to be running to the windows to pull chains while you’re trying to take care of a classroom of elementary children.”

However, the plan also called for interior light shelves on the same windows. A light shelf is just that—a horizontal shelf placed above eye-level, and used to reflect light onto the ceiling, bringing it deeper into the space. This distribution of light reduces “hot spots” and allows a deeper penetration of glare-free natural light. 

But how to combine both products on the same window? Marx decided to go with Draper’s FlexWave Light Shelf, with a special mounting bracket that incorporates brackets for a motorized shade.

“I visited the plant to understand exactly what the product was, how it was constructed, and how it needed to be installed,” Marx recalls. After meeting with the Draper engineer who designed the bracket, he decided it was the way to go.

Because these classroom pods were designed with technology-driven educational applications in mind, there was also the need for additional shades above the FlexWave units. That way, light can be kept out both below and above the shelf when there are AV presentations or movies.

There’s also more and more need to shade not just the exterior windows but also the inside windows, according to Marx, citing the safety concerns about masking movement inside the classroom. Those windows facing the hallway are manually operated, though.

Marx says installation of the FlexWave/Motorized FlexShade combos went smoothly.  

 


“The light shelves go up very nicely,” he says. “The motorized shade has an adjustable leveling device so you can level the shade with an Allen wrench adjustment, which works very well. Even if the shelves are hung level some adjustment may still be needed and that was a great idea.”

The light shelves are working well to divert natural light into the building further—especially on the south side of the buildings—reducing the need for artificial lighting. Light shelves have also been proven to increase productivity and attention—especially further in from the windows— by allowing more natural light to be used. And while the FlexWave is designed to resist dust collection, if one does get dirty the shelf can be easily rotated down, without the use of tools, for cleaning.

Everyone seems pleased with the light shelves and motorized shades—even the kids.

“The kids love to throw the switch on the shades,” Marx says. “They like having the teacher dispense the control—they’re always asking whose turn it is to throw the switch!”