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Skylight Systems: Everything you need to know

Did you know that you spend an average of 90% of your time indoors? With work, school, and other daily functions all carried out in enclosed spaces, it’s important to prioritize our well-being and lighting in these areas. While electric lighting may be visually effective, it doesn’t provide the same non-visual benefits as natural light. That’s why we’re excited to introduce skylight systems as a creative strategy for controlling natural light and enhancing the architecture in these spaces. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of skylights and how they can improve your indoor environment.

What are skylight systems?

Let’s take a quick look at the history of skylights before we dive into our topic. 

Skylights have been around since ancient Roman times when the idea of “opening up the roof to let in the sunshine” was already a desirable concept. While glass production techniques were not universal during this period, the Romans were pioneers in the use of glass in architecture to allow for natural light and ventilation. However, it wasn’t until the late 13th century that skylights were properly installed in large medieval structures. The advent of the Industrial Revolution led to the development of larger glass panels and more functional skylights. Today, in the 21st century, skylights are equipped with high-performance insulating glass and advanced sealing technologies. It’s fascinating to see how far skylights have come!

Let’s refocus on our main question: What exactly are skylight systems?

Simply put, skylight systems – also known as rooflights – are natural lighting and ventilation systems integrated into building design to make the most of sunlight and improve airflow within interior spaces. They typically consist of vertical or roof-mounted glass structures or panels that allow natural light to penetrate a closed space, serving as a critical component of sustainable building design by reducing the need for artificial lighting and energy consumption. Skylight systems can be installed in a range of buildings, from residential homes to commercial structures, and are suitable for both new and existing constructions. While their elegant and transparent design adds to their appeal, it’s essential to keep in mind that not all skylight systems are equally effective.

Skylight Systems

Types of Skylights

Regardless of whether it’s a bedroom in Orlando, a bathroom in Fort Myers, a living room in Jacksonville, or a commercial space in Naples, skylights all serve a common purpose: to provide natural lighting and ventilation to interior spaces that would otherwise remain dark and poorly ventilated. However, a skylight is more than just a conventional architectural feature located at the top of a building – it has the potential to be a stunning work of art that captures the eye and transforms the aesthetic of any space.

The possibilities for skylight design are endless, providing designers with a wide range of options to express their creativity and tailor each project to meet specific requirements. In this article, we will explore at least three types of skylights and delve deeper into the unique characteristics of each one:

Fixed Skylight

Let’s start with the fixed skylight – one of the most popular types within the skylight family. As the name suggests, this type of skylight cannot be opened to allow fresh air in but is designed to provide natural light to areas with limited lighting, such as attics and staircases. The fixed skylight is constructed with a hermetic seal to ensure the tightness of the roof and prevent water leaks. Typically, around 90 percent of the materials used in its manufacturing consist of glass, while the frame can be made of steel, aluminum, or wood, depending on the specific requirements of the project.

Pyramid Skylight

In architectural works, it’s not uncommon to encounter unique shapes and creative geometries that add a touch of originality to a building’s design. That’s why we can’t overlook pyramid skylights. This type of skylight offers an affordable design option and can be customized to fit various fields. Typically installed on curbs on flat roofs, pyramid skylights provide a range of slope or inclination options. They feature a pyramid shape over a square opening, usually with four sides. However, if constructed over a rectangular opening, they are referred to as four-sided ridge skylights. The slope of the skylight is determined by the artistic judgement of the architect, structural engineering needs, or a combination of both. Additionally, when built over six or eight-sided openings, or irregular openings with multiple sides, they are referred to as polygonal skylights.

Barrel Vault Skylight

The barrel vault is the last, but certainly not the least important type of skylight on our list. These skylights are a cost-effective and practical solution for providing natural lighting and spaciousness to the interior spaces of a building, such as lobbies or atriums. They can also serve as entrance canopies, covered walkways, and connectors between adjacent buildings. The transparent surface of the skylight covers either the entire roof area or more than 80% of it. Barrel vault skylights are primarily used in non-residential structures, such as corridors, canopies, parking lots, commercial galleries, medical and educational institutions, and industrial complexes. However, due to their large area and limited privacy characteristics, they are not suitable for use in residential buildings.

Pros and Cons of Skylights

If you’ve made it to this part of the article and you’re still uncertain about the significance of skylights, let me enlighten you with some lesser-known benefits that they offer.

Skylights are known for their ability to bring life to dark or gloomy areas by providing increased light, which can expand design options and energize a room. When strategically placed, skylights can offer up to three times more natural light than a vertical window of the same size, making them a cost-effective and energy-efficient choice. In addition to aesthetic and environmental benefits, skylights can also have a positive impact on mental health by improving mood and reducing the severity of conditions such as depression and anxiety. As a result, a well-lit home or office can lead to a more pleasant and livable environment, which can ultimately increase property value.

By now, you may be imagining your room with a skylight and wondering why you haven’t installed one yet. However, it’s important to note that skylights also have their drawbacks. Many of these disadvantages stem from poor product choices, such as selecting an inadequate system for the intended application. Challenges can arise, particularly when low-quality materials are used that fail to adequately filter out ultraviolet rays, which can lead to interior damage. Additionally, a poorly installed or inferior skylight can cause condensation or water leaks in winter, and in some cases, even result in heat loss from the room.

Eastern Engineering Group

While skylight systems have numerous benefits, their installation is not a straightforward task. Only qualified professionals can guarantee that these systems are designed and installed correctly, ensuring optimal performance and preventing potential issues. Hence, it is highly recommended to seek the help of experts to avoid any unwanted problems. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the professionals!

Eastern Engineering Group is a structural engineering company that offers a variety of services to ensure successful installation of skylight systems. Our team of highly trained engineers performs detailed structural calculations to guarantee that the support structure is compatible with the skylight system design, as seen in our work on the Miami Dade County Animal Shelter located in Doral, FL. During this project, we designed and provided accurate shop drawings for the installation of seven skylights “A” and one skylight “B”. Our use of advanced tools such as Architectural Cad helped us ensure that the drawings were detailed and precise. Once completed, we delivered signed and sealed copies of the drawings to the client, ensuring compliance with all requirements and standards of the Florida Building Code and other applicable regulations.

Take the first step towards brighter and more spacious interiors today! With Eastern Engineering Group‘s expert assistance, you can bring the natural light your construction project needs. The skilled professionals our Windows and Doors Division can help you achieve the optimal design and installation for your building. Don’t hesitate any longer, contact us today and let us show you the difference our expertise can make in your project.

©️ 2023 Eastern Engineering Group wrote and published this article. All rights reserved.

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