A glass act

Xtralite Rooflights’ Technical Services Manager Richard Lowe draws upon his 35 years’ experience in the industry to share his top tips for designing with glass…

Who can deny the feel good factor associated with bringing the great outdoors indoors? Glass has always been a popular material, but in recent years we’ve really seen demand soar across both standard rooflight and bespoke structures.

Not only does glass tick all of the boxes aesthetically – it’s an instant and cost effective means of giving the impression of space and modernity without the need for a large footprint – but it also performs equally well from a high impact, acoustic and thermal perspective, and has a long working life. Add sophisticated solar control and self-cleaning features to the specification and they’ll perform even better.

This desire to see the sky makes glass the go-to material for a whole host of domestic, commercial, and retail projects and manufacturers for their part have been developing a wide range of glass-based products to satisfy even the most demanding of environments. Many car dealerships, for example, are now floor to ceiling glass, and with build space at a premium, designers are turning to overhead glazing as the ideal solution for transforming an internal garden into an additional room.

It can be tempting to get carried away with huge expanses of glazing, especially when you consider the impressive designs which can be achieved with features such as curved glazing in barrel vault rooflights and custom-made multi-faceted structural units. However, in overhead applications in particular, it’s important to remember that the same overall effect can generally be achieved with a ‘less is more’ approach given that rooflights provide three times more light than the same area of vertical glazing and provide a much more even distribution of light.

Research documents from industry body NARM (The National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers) recommend considering a maximum glazed area of 20% to achieve optimum energy savings, although this can vary depending on individual project factors and specifications.

Once a rooflight system is installed it is often difficult and costly to change or correct shortcomings. A great design can turn into a practical problem for building users if there’s too much overhead glazing with a lack of attention to light transmission and solar gain levels. Fully glazed corridor designs linking one building to another, for example, can reach temperatures of 45-50 degrees where ventilation has not been incorporated, making it hard to breathe.

The key to achieving the perfect solution for any project depends on selecting the correct system and specification for the purpose and size of the space below, taking into consideration factors including room height and existing windows or curtain walls. Manufacturers can add real value at the early design stage and should be used for far more than offering product guidance. They can impart free advice and insight learned from having worked on many hundreds of similar projects, which is particularly useful when identifying potential issues to avoid.

Rooflights can have a major impact on the overall energy consumption of a building by reducing reliance on electric lights. Furthermore, using rooflights to provide a bright, naturally lit interior creates an environment that people enjoy spending time in, and as well contributing to the Government’s target to reduce CO2 emissions.

For more information about Xtralite Rooflights please visit www.xtralite.co.uk or call +44 (0)1670 354157