Becker ensures awnings for historical architecture have the right drive
Majestic buildings demand authentic sun protection. This was the general opinion in mid 18th century France, where the historical origin of awnings is rooted. The current owner of a 19th century residential and commercial building in Cologne, Germany, whose splendid neo-gothic brick facade adorns the corner of an area popular with shoppers and locals alike, was looking for a way to upgrade its appearance with sun protection to match the historical surroundings. But the client also wished to benefit from the convenience and comfort provided by modern-day automation technology. There followed a prolonged search for experts who could tackle this demanding challenge and offer an end result where appearance, functionality and handling leave nothing to be desired.
Needless to say, the majority of people strolling past the pretty shop windows of the old town do not realise how much effort it took to achieve this goal. When the sun is shining, the pale yellow drop-arm awnings fit harmoniously into the overall appearance of the listed building and catch the eyes of passersby together with the elaborate window arches, the imposing bay and the gable-crowning statue of the Virgin Mary. But what sets the awnings apart from their historical predecessors is that all eight awning systems are equipped with electric motors and can therefore be controlled fully automatically according to requirements. This was just one of the reasons why Lucas, a sun production specialist from northern Germany, brought Becker-Antriebe GmbH on board. “The actual building owner contacted us through the German Federal Association for Manufacturers and Installers of Roller Shutters and Sun Protection Products after he had searched nationwide to no avail for a company to help him realise this project,” explains Hermann Lucas, founder and managing director of the company. “Becker was our partner of choice, as we have been working successfully with them for more than ten years; a company that, just like us, is not afraid to search for the right solutions to solve very special problems – and in line with our motto: ‘Impossible, Not possible’.”
Attention to detail
Prior to automation, the initial priority was to reconstruct the drop-arm awnings as closely as possible to the ones originally installed. A particular challenge proved to be the rods. Both their shape and colour were meant to retain the character and charm of the ‘the good old days’. Lucas used the drawings and photographs provided by the client to turn CAD drawings and 1:1 prototypes into a finished product of the highest quality, right down to the smallest detail – for instance the shape of the external springs which are quite visible around the guide rods. The desired gold-brass colour of the original stainless rods was provided by a PVD coating (Physical Vapour Deposition) onto which an ultra-thin layer of titanium nitride (TiN) had been applied – a procedure carried out by very few companies in Germany today.
A bridge between yesterday and today
The wonderful sun protection systems are driven by high-performance tubular drives with electrical limit switches that are carefully hidden away in the eight anthracite coloured awning boxes, which match the ornate windows. “The contrast between the old-worldly look on the outside and the state-of-the-art technology on the inside ensured this project was particularly interesting,” says Uwe Happel, Sales and Marketing Manager at Becker. “It demonstrates quite clearly the enormous developments which have taken place in the sun protection industry – and which will continue to take place in the future. Our goal is to continue contributing to the technological developments in this field and the opportunities presented by automation systems.” The grand house in Cologne no longer shows any signs of the fixed wicker canopies that were once popular, or awnings with a simple mechanical control that had to be operated manually. Instead, intelligent sun-wind-control units ensure perfect protection for whatever the weather may have in store: if the sun is too bright, the awnings are automatically extracted. This not only protects the shop windows from the sun’s harmful rays, but also provides some welcome shade for passersby. The interior of the shop also stays nice and cool and helps to cut air-conditioning bills in the summer. If the weather starts to deteriorate – for example if a breeze picks up or the first drops of rain start to fall – the awning is automatically retracted, thus protecting the valuable system against damage. Each side of the corner facade boasts its own sun-wind-control unit that can be controlled individually – depending on which side the sun is currently shining. However, if required, all eight awnings can be controlled at exactly the same time, for example at closing time, via the integrated timer. The combination of the owner’s dedication and hard work and the specialist knowledge of experts has resulted in a small masterpiece that is, in effect, a bridge between yesterday and today.