ARTICLE Jason Burgess
Natural daylight is known to invigorate and lift our moods thus enhancing our wellbeing. Natural light also offers disinfectant qualities that contribute to overall healthier living spaces.
Daylight is full-spectrum light, featuring equal parts of each wavelength (colour) of light. Our sense are tuned to this natural light and a lack of exposure to it can be emotionally detrimental.
“Just by adding some natural daylight into a dark room will automatically encourage more use of that space,” says Mike Cullen, National Trade Manager at HomeTech Solatube. ‘Daylighting’ is as old as architecture itself. Yet since the invention of the electric light bulb it is often an after thought in house design. Opening up the dark areas of your home to natural light not only provides brighter living areas, it creates an illusion of space and more importantly, will reduce the need for artificial light.
“These days we hear so much about sustainability in design,” says Horst Brenner, GM at Velux. “Often that just means eco-lighting when really we need to consider how to get the most from natural light sources before we start paying for electricity.”
Studies in the UK have estimated that around 24 per cent of CO2 emissions are derived from artificial lighting in residential properties.
Architect Allan McIntosh says: “Location and orientation of your home are key factors in understanding what products to use and where to position additional sources of natural light. A balance of vertical windows and skylight Tubular Daylighting Devices (TDD) creates the most effective light filled room with light from two directions. An opening skylight working in tandem with a window will allow for effective passive ventilation in summer.”
Skylights are essentially windows in your roof. Skylights create a visual feature; they not only draw direct light but also increase views and engagement with external environments. They offer great flexibility and can be fixed, vented, tinted, or combined with an automatic shutter system.
HomeTech FAKRO Opening Roof window
Skylights are modular components and in the right situations can be used tandem to create and atrium effect. “With larger houses particularly, there is always a dark side,” says Allan McIntosh.
“In these situations we have used multiple skylights side-by-side to create a ‘light well’ to achieve an even spread of light throughout.”
Skylights are usually built with timber interior frame and lacquered aluminium exteriors. HomeTech Solatube skylights feature argon gas injected double-glazing for thermal efficiency and Low-E (Low-emissivity) coated with 99 per cent UV resistance on the outer glass.
Where drama is not a requirement, or space is a premium, then compact TDDs are great for spaces where traditional skylights can’t reach.
Solatube Daylighting System
Equally, in the right situation they can illuminate areas as large as 28 square metres. In optimum circumstances they can provide as much light as a 60-watt bulb.
With TDDs, heat loss or gain is minimal. They are discreet, quick to install and can be used to illuminates lower level rooms up to nine metres down from the roofline.
A TDD consists of a UV stabilised acrylic dome collecting light above the roofline. Which is then passed through super reflective tubing installed between the roof and the ceiling.
Diffusers at the ceiling end ensure light is diffused evenly into the room. There are a multitude of decorative styles to suit your interior design; with low profile, flush mounted rounds to more traditional light-shade styles in round or squares.
Many TDDs feature optional ventilation add-on kits. These can help alleviate condensation in windowless bathroom and laundry areas and comply with building regulations.
Solatube Daylighting System
Achieving additional natural light from vertical spaces is limited only by imagination and of course budget. Clerestory windows have been used for centuries in the upper levels of churches and cathedrals to cast heavenly light into the recesses of the nave and chancel.
In homes with high studs, they can be used above regular windows areas or in steep rooflines to allow additional light and air into the back of your living areas. The shape, style and joinery materials will depend on the era of the house, your roofline and your requirements.
In the winter, north-facing clerestory windows will invite heat as well as light from the sun. In the summer, window shades or overhangs may be needed to help minimse excessive heat gain.
Windowsills can double as light shelves bouncing the light towards the ceiling for more even dispersion.
On the south side of a home, clerestory windows will provide a soft even light and keep cooling bills down in warmer months. Always look for double-glazing and Low-E glass.
Above-door transom windows, sidelights and glass insets in doors can work to bring additional lights in dark entry and passageways. All windows can usually be custom-made to suit your aesthetic requirements.
Corner/bay windows or where feasible, interlocking glass sliding doors, will open up a room and view while allowing light in from two directions. That said, a corner portal may require extra structural work to strengthen the building frame.
Spreading the light throughout the home might also be achieved using glazed panel interior doors. There is a vast range of glass finish options, from stained and clear to sandblasted patterned panes.
HomeTech FAKRO Skylights
A non-load bearing wall could be transformed into a glass atrium/dividing feature wall.
To maximise the effect of natural light in the home, design store ECC suggest employing recessed shelving, transparent (ghost) furniture and large-scale mirrors to increase the reach of daylight while creating a sense of space also. Large mirrors of mirror doors placed adjacent to or opposite a window will maximise the spill of light into the room and give the illusion of spaciousness.
“Less is more,” suggests ECC Account Manager Katie Bell. “So remove clutter from your window areas and don’t block your view. Sticking to a neutral colour palette and clean classic lines will always help create bigger, brighter spaces.”
But let us not get too ahead of ourselves. Before any roofing iron or weatherboards are lifted and colour swatches debated, renovators should first talk to a certified installer.
They will know which skylight/TDD options will work best for each area, roof pitch, roofing materials and what effect daylighting solutions will have on the thermal efficiency of the building.
Identifying the direction and quality of light hitting your home will help determine placement and which product will manage the task best. Look at how your preferred daylighting system integrates with your new or existing architecture.
Ask, do you require direct sunlight to see the view outside, or will a gentle even wash do the job? I magine how to use light to enhance and create a lighter brighter mood and/or visual focus.
“The biggest growing trend today is increased consumer choice,” says Mike Cullen. “There is now a product to fit the purpose.” Buildology’s Alan McIntosh recognizes renovators growing awareness towards maximising natural light gain.
Technology wise, he says: “TDDs have come a long way in the last couple of years, with dimmer functions, built in low energy LED lights, on/off movement sensors and automated controls to respond to fading light.”
Likewise skylights are moving towards automation. Velux’s integra system for skylights has an electronic touch pad and rain sensor for auto closing.
For planning purposes, check Velux’s downloadable Daylight Visualiser for architects/designers and consumers.
The visualizer evaluates your 3D plans to weigh up how daylight factors into each room. “It is important,” says Horst, “to have good tools to help make informed decisions.”
Horst suggests that with such an array of products on the market, renovators are becoming more adventurous. A growing trend he has observed is: “There are a growing number of homeowners who are converting their attic space into skylight lit rooms.”
You might be interested in reading: Planning new feature lighting for your home.
If you would like to discuss options and ideas for bringing more natural light into the home, please use the enquiry form alongside to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.