To open up your interiors to natural light and nature, you can use the external and structural elements. Besides windows and glass doors, which have many options too but may be impractical due to limited space, you can easily find some alternatives, especially for less conventional areas. There is plenty of various elegant and practical solutions to brighten up your home and let it air.
Rooflights, skylight and roof window
Terms such as rooflights and skylights are familiar general terms used to describe windows in the house ceiling. You can use them interchangeably as it seems there is no technical difference between these two glass roof elements. They are generally fitted in the high roof and designed to bring daylight inside rather than give a landscape view. Whereas roof windows are considered to be slightly different items in terms of their specifications and function. They can be CE marked, which means they have been checked with safety, health, or environmental requirements. Predominantly roof windows are in-plane elements, i.e., they are flush with the rest of the roof. The other two are usually installed ‘out of plane’ on special upstands or kerbs. Nevertheless, you can find a mix of those terms, so it is better not to focus too much on this. Their shared aim is to let light inside. You can choose fixed or openable (top hung, pivot) products in various designs. Besides, you can benefit from manual, electric, and solar windows. Electric windows easily open with remote control. They may have a lot of smart features, for example, self-closing in the rain. Solar windows are operated similarly with a difference that they do not require connecting into the main power supply. They can be designed either for flat roofs or pitch roofs. Moreover, you can use pitch roof design for flat roofs by using flat roof kerb. When installing a flat roof window, you can fit it at the angle thanks to adding a flat roof kerb extension to create a slightly pitched effect on a flat surface.
Roof lanterns (‘pyramids’) are a shade of 3D glazed skylights. They consist of a series of smaller towering panes of glass built into the building roof. They emphasise wonderfully light, which floods inside and reflects in intersections. This flat roof feature can have various shapes and styles, but the most common option is a pyramid-shaped window. It is not only a visually striking showpiece but also a stunning daylighting solution to open up your interior to natural light and create an illusion of spacious. Another advantage is solar heating! Naturally, integrated vents and blinds will help control temperature and natural lighting to maintain a pleasant environment. If you are afraid of exterior noises (rainfall or traffic noise) coming through, the sound quality glazing should soundproof your house. And if you wonder how to clean these difficult to reach glazed roof elements, a self-cleaning coating is often a standard feature! They are a fabulous alternative to a fully glazed conservatory. They look gorgeously in orangeries and can add a visually spectacular architectural element to Victorian-style houses. Whereas flat rooflights align flawlessly with the design of modern buildings.
Roof lanterns and flat skylights have the same purposes and similar features. The firsts are undoubtedly eye-catching elements, but they are usually larger constructions, highly visible and may obstruct the view from upstairs. In that case, the flat skylight is the better option as it will never block the other windows.
Sun tubes are light tunnels that direct sunlight down through the specially designed channel to ceiling and allow natural light to get to your home. The reflective tube virtually transforms light and spread it through the room. The system includes an exterior glazed roof element that comes in many sizes and shapes (from rounded dome to flat square panel), a strongly reflective transmitting tube and an interior ceiling diffuser. The outside panel gives small window like appearance when the ceiling diffuser looks just like a spotlight (flat or semi-recessed shaped, mirror or satin finish). They work on both pitched roofs and flat roof. There are two available types of sun tubes. The first option, ridge sun tube, consist of a straight, ridge tube that cannot be bend. It will transmit the highest amount of light but only in a straight angle to the room below and therefore is suitable exclusively for ‘clear roof space’. The second option, a flexible tube, thanks to its flexible construction, are used for awkward, less accessible spaces. This design reduces the level of entering light, but it may be the only option to allow you to go around any roof obstructions as it fits between most conventional rafters/joists. It is a pragmatic way to light up awkward, hard-to-reach areas where there is either not enough space for a standard rooflight or installing it would not be appropriate.
An AOV stays for ‘automatic opening vent’ window. Although it is not practically a conventional window but an automated ventilation system, one can say that, in fact, it combinates two functions: inside lightening and ventilating. The ventilation system integrated into the building activates when triggered by smoke or heat to open window vents. Therefore, its foremost aim is ventilation in the event of a fire and thus provides a safe escape route. Besides smoke ventilation, its integrated feature is natural daily ventilation. It ensures optimum air distribution and its pure quality and daylight transmission into the building. The system is programmed depending on the number of controlled elements’ zones. Items (windows vents) required to be operated simultaneously are one zone. Single zone panel allows to open/close all components in the zone at once. On the contrary, multi-zone unit controls several separate zones. For example, it can be suited in a multi-storey building where each floor has an independent zone.
How does an AOV system work?
In case of emergency, a triggered detector or call point alters the control panel. The system will open to exhaust smoke within the zone, whereas other zones remain closed to prevent, together with other safety solutions, the spread of smoke and fire. It is worth mentioning, especially that it is a cheaper option to meet required safety measure for high multi-storey buildings. It is a part of a fire system that activates when detectors are exposed to smoke. AOV call points are manual override switch/key-switch units or glass break units used to start the ventilation system. Thanks to electric AOV actuators, the system will work with manually operated smoke vents or windows. More advanced models have humidity and CO2 sensors to maintain a comfortable interior environment.
You can use them on decks, roof terraces, as part of interior flooring or unique characteristic of a garden patio. It is a perfect way to light up basements and cellars. The glass is safe to walk on and can feature non-slip surface in case of damp conditions. You can create pavement lights to let sunlight into space below and create a stunning effect in a garden.
Basement lightwell is an area opened to the sky provided along the basement walls that links basement space with the outdoors. It is an element incorporated in lightening design, as a focal component for basement conversions and extensions, to funnel in daylight and fresh air.
These two levels may be connected in countless forms and with a variety of materials. Stone, timber, and glasswork fantastically for lightwell construction. To provide a broad view, the front lightwell can be designed as partially sunken airway with a stair going up from the wide-open courtyard, eagerly combined with walkable glass platforms and bridges above. Another remarkable idea is mid-lightwell. It is in hear of the basement in the shape of the glazed lightning tube. You can use the open space inside the glass walls and create a small sunken garden. For security reasons, a balustrade is a key element to protect people from falling.
You have numerous solutions to boost natural light and air quality inside. Regardless of whether it is a small irregularly shaped attic or an underused basement, you can choose the best option and enjoy gorgeous bright and fresh interiors!