Updating Your Workplace: How to Add Skylights and Daylighting Systems to Old Buildings

How to Add Skylights and Daylighting Systems to Old BuildingsFrom historical office buildings to classic houses, most old buildings can benefit a great deal from daylighting. Due to the poor reliability of older skylights, many of the houses built before the last 20 years used simple daylighting systems that can easily be improved with some small additions and modifications.

Throughout the 20th century, many homes and office buildings were designed and constructed with natural lighting as an afterthought. Because of this, adding even a minimal daylighting system to an older townhouse or single-story office can result in huge benefits to visibility, accessibility, and quality of life.

Before you consider installing skylights or larger windows, it’s worth talking to a daylighting expert about the effects this will have on your home or office. Get an expert’s opinion, as they will be able to point out the best areas for installing new daylighting systems for optimal sunlight and minimal glare.

Many older offices are split into many small spaces – the opposite of the open and spacious office projects of today. Because of this, even small skylights can light up spaces that previously depended on artificial lighting. Installing large windows in communal areas is also a great way to introduce new light to older buildings.

There are benefits to daylighting beyond additional sunlight. The insulation used in many older buildings is quite inefficient, and adding a treated skylight can have a huge positive effect on a building’s daytime temperature and heat loss. This could mean reduced energy bills due to more efficient lighting and air conditioning.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to introduce daylighting to an older building without some large changes to its design and character. In this case, it’s often a good idea to use a combination of natural light and artificial light to increase the building’s level of energy efficiency while still retaining its original design and character.

In other cases, installing daylighting is an opportunity to enhance a building’s look and retain its character. The Center for Historic Buildings notes that renovations are an excellent opportunity to reverse previous alterations made during the era of low-cost, energy-inefficient fluorescent lighting.

Often the design and engineering used in older buildings makes it difficult to install modern daylighting systems. We have noted in a previous guide to daylighting that many older buildings have rafters centered at a non-standard level. This can often require modification in order for modern daylighting systems to be installed.

In some cases, older buildings already have daylighting systems installed. These are often inefficient and outdated – some older skylights, for example, have no form of protection against UV radiation or heat transfer. In this situation, it’s a great idea to update the daylighting system to more modern, energy efficient versions.

The benefits of installing modern daylighting systems in older buildings can be very substantial. However, due to the design of many older buildings, it’s even more vital to consult with an expert daylighting company before you even consider making any major renovations.

“Image courtesy of Fabrice LEROUGE/Jupiterimages.com”

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