Glazing the roof

Richard Lowe shares some of the latest insights into rooflight specification for schools and other educational facilities

There are many examples of schools, colleges and universities which use natural light to great effect. In recent years there has been a growing trend to build upwards, with glazing structures providing the source of natural daylight to multiple levels below. Horizontal rooflights, for example, can provide two and a half times more light to a room than vertical windows, helping to drive down bills by reducing reliance on artificial lighting. Beyond the aesthetics and environmental benefits, it is also acknowledged that natural light can improve productivity and focus, creating an enhanced environment for learning.

When it comes to rooflight specification, glass and polycarbonates have become the go-to materials for many architects looking to achieve the impression of space and modernity without the need for a large footprint.

Glass structures offer a long working life, high acoustic performance, low G values and can also be treated to control solar gain, thus providing high light transmission levels without it feeling too hot for pupils in the space below. Specialist coatings can also be applied to glass during manufacture to reduce heat loss, which is especially useful in larger educational spaces with higher volumes of glazing.

Equally popular with architects, designers and proprietors are sophisticated rooflights using LumiraTM technology, especially so in overhead and vertical glazing applications. These materials provide high levels of thermal insulation, reducing energy losses, and give a shadow-less diffused light without high spots of contrasting glare, for comfort, practicality and safety. Specifying LumiraTM technology over swimming pools is especially useful where glare must be kept to a minimum in order to see clearly into the water below. Furthermore, the material is virtually unbreakable and doesn’t shatter. LumiraTM offers up to 5dB(A) reduction in airborne noise and 8dB(A) impact sound from heavy rainfall, compared with unfilled glazing – ensuring that noise from external factors don’t intrude on pupils’ learning.

It is important to consider the materials you wish to use carefully, within the context of the room below. Failure to factor in the intended usage of this space can result in glazing which looks impressive but may fall short functionality-wise in certain weather conditions. Common oversights such as external noise from heavy rainfall, dazzling beams of sunlight and an uncomfortable build up of heat in the summer months can all be avoided through careful consultation at the early design stage of a new-build or refurbishment project.

In the same way it is also important to consider existing external roof spaces and their features. For example, it is no use installing a rooflight which is meant to double up as an emergency exit only to find it cannot fully be opened because it has been installed next to a chimney or wall. Likewise, in cases where large areas of glazing are used to create a corridor connecting buildings, it is important to consider ventilation features to avoid a walkway which feels uncomfortably hot to walk through in the summer months.

These scenarios are entirely avoidable if detailed questions are asked at the outset and appropriate attention is paid to the all-round usage, surroundings, size and materials specified in rooflights.

Rooflight manufacturers are continuously pushing the boundaries in innovative design to offer new and enhanced features to meet the needs of today’s multi-use educational facilities. Their advice is free and in addition to extensive product knowledge, they can also offer invaluable insights gained from having worked on many hundreds of similar projects – so it makes perfect sense to consult with them at the beginning of your project.

Richard Lowe is technical services manager at Xtralite Rooflights T: 01670 354157 W:


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