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150 Holborn Facade

Using automated blinds to prevent light pollution from commercial buildings

By: Oli Birch Category: Automated Systems

The impact of light pollution is a growing concern across the globe.

Research shows how the night sky is now twice as bright as it was eight years ago, with astronomers reporting a 9.6% increase in brightness each year due to the growth of unnatural light use.

However, regulations have been put in place to mitigate the amount of light pollution generated in the UK.

And architects and contractors can help to play a key role in ensuring compliance with such regulations through the use of automated blinds.

In this article, we’ll explore this topic in greater detail by discussing the below:

  • Current light pollution regulations in the UK
  • The role of automated blinds for commercial buildings
  • Questions to consider
  • Successful case studies

(Note: the header image used is not an indication of a building with poor light pollution. This was a staged photo with the blinds raised).

Light pollution in the UK

Put simply, light pollution is “the excessive or inappropriate use of outdoor artificial light,” according to National Geographic, and comes in four main forms:

  • Glare
  • Skyglow
  • Light trespass
  • Light clutter

BREEAM, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2006 and the Town and Country Planning Regulations 2017 are three of the key pieces of legislation regarding light pollution in the UK.

They require architects and developers to consider the impact of light pollution on the environment and wellbeing of those in neighbouring properties to new commercial buildings.

Bank of Montreal Motorised Blinds

Failure to comply with regulations will not only result in legal action being taken, but it also further damages our environment and disrupts the circadian rhythm of humans, animals and plants.

The role of automated blinds

Tackling light pollution through the use of an automated blind system is an incredibly practical and achievable solution.

Furthermore, the energy efficiency of a building can also be improved when such systems are used correctly and paired with high performance fabrics.

For example, automated SMI blinds with timeclock functionality or integrated light sensors can be programmed to adjust automatically at specific times, or even based on the amount of natural light detected; thus, reducing the amount of light pollution emitted and saving on energy.

Moreover, automated blinds reduce the level of solar heat gain and glare entering the building throughout the day and therefore help to improve occupancy comfort.

In comparison, manually operated blinds require near constant use to perform at the same level. In fact, for any given day, approximately 60% of manual blinds will not move at all, and only 10-20% are actively controlled.

Questions to consider

Firstly, location is crucial. If the project could have an impact of local wildlife or nocturnal animals, like bats, light pollution restrictions are likely to be strict.

In such instances, the amount of internal light cannot exceed the amount of external light, for example, and significant thought is required at design stage to ensure this criteria is met.

Similarly, if the building is located in the vicinity of residential properties, this will also need to be considered.

Methods of controlling light pollution through automated systems vary, too. And they are likely to be determined by the budget and level of light control needed.

Time clocks can be used to ensure the blinds raise or lower at a set time in the day, similar to a central heating system.

150 Holborn Control Unit

Astro timers, meanwhile, are programmed to change in height depending on the time of the sunset, while full sun tracking systems can measure the physical position of the sun and change the blind height accordingly.

Successful case studies?

We’ve worked alongside architects and contractors on multiple jobs previously, using automated blind systems to comply with light pollution regulations, with the below being three standouts:

  • Goswell Road – 190 ShadeTech® RBL-E roller blinds using a fully automated system controlled via an Astro Timer and motor controllers.
  • Large tech firm in Cambridge – Lux sensor on the roof to measure internal light vs external light, using a KNX interface.
  • Large American investment bank in Farringdon – full sun tracking system, physically measuring the position of the sun.


Specifying automated blind systems on commercial projects not only increases the chances of complying with light pollution regulations, but it also helps to improve a building’s energy efficiency and occupancy comfort.

If you’d like to discuss light pollution in greater detail or are interested in specifying an automated blind system for your project, contact us here and our expert team will be in touch.

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