You are on page 1of 5

Skylights are light transmitting fenestration (elements filling building envelope openings) forming all,

or a portion of, the roof of a building's space for daylighting purposes.


A skylight is a special type of window built into the roof of a house in order to allow natural light to
come into the house directly. A skylight may be installed for aesthetic purposes, or as part of a
general passive-heating strategy. There are many different types of skylight, with differing designs,
materials, and added components.

History
Open skylights were used in Ancient Roman architecture, such as the [ ] of the Pantheon. Glazed
'closed' skylights have been in use since the Industrial Revolution made advances in glass
production manufacturing.
Glass making
A new method of producing glass, known as the cylinder process, was developed in Europe during
the early 19th century. In 1832, this process was used by the Chance Brothers to create sheet glass.
They became the leading producers of window and plate glass. This advancement allowed for larger
panes of glass to be created without interruption, thus freeing up the space planning in interiors as
well as the fenestration of buildings. The Crystal Palace is the supreme example of the use of sheet
glass in a new and innovative structure..
Mass production units since the mid-20th century have brought skylights to many uses and
contexts. Energy conservation has brought new motivation, design innovation, transmission options,
and efficiency rating systems for skylights.
There are three main classes of skylight widely in use. A ventilating skylight may be opened to
allow air to pass through. These skylights are ideal for bathrooms and kitchens, where they help to
relieve excess moisture and keep the flow of air steady. Ventilating skylights may be controlled by a
remote, by a hand crank, or by an automatic sensor which tracks inside temperature.
A fixed skylight is any type of skylight which doesn't open. This type of skylight is intended solely to
allow light to pass into the house. Lastly, the tubular skylight is essentially a very small skylight,
intended mainly for hallways and small rooms where a traditional skylight wouldn't easily fit.

Description
Skylighting types include roof windows, unit skylights, tubular daylighting devices (TDDs), sloped
glazing, and custom skylights. Uses include:
daylighting elements used to allow direct and/or indirect sunlight, via toplighting.
providing a visual connection to the outdoor environment to interior occupants.
sustainable building passive solar heating, and with operable units; ventilation for passive
cooling and fresh air exchange.

Fixed unit skylight
A fixed skylight consists of a structural perimeter frame supporting glazing infill (the light-
transmitting portion, which is made primarily of glass or plastic). A fixed skylight is non-
operable, meaning there is no ventilation.
[1]

Operable skylight
An operable (venting) unit skylight uses a hinged sash attached to and supported by the
frame. When within reach of the occupants, this type is also called a roof window.
Retractable skylight
A retractable skylight rolls - on a set of tracks - off the frame, so that the interior of the facility
is entirely open to the outdoors, i.e., not impeded by a hinged skylight. The terms retractable
skylight and retractable roof are often used interchangeably, though skylight implies a degree
of transparency.
Tubular daylight device
Active daylighting uses a tubular daylight deviceTDD. It is a roof-mounted fixed unit
skylight element, condensing sunlight, distributed by a light conveying optic conduit to a light
diffusing element. Being small in diameter, they can be used for daylighting smaller spaces
such ashallways, and bounce light in darker corners of spaces. TDDs harvest daylight
through a roof-mounted dome with diameters ranging from about 10 inches for residential
applications to 22 inches for commercial buildings. Made from acrylic or polycarbonate
formulated to block ultraviolet rays, the dome captures and redirects light rays into an
aluminum tubing system that resembles ductwork.
Tubular daylighting devices use modern technology to transmit visible light through opaque
walls and roofs. The tube itself is a passive component consisting of either a simple reflective
interior coating or a light conducting fiber optic bundle. It is frequently capped with a
transparent, roof-mounted dome 'light collector' and terminated with a diffuser assembly that
admits the daylight into interior spaces and distributes the available light energy evenly (or
else efficiently if the use of the lit space is reasonably fixed, and the user desired one or
more 'bright-spots').
Sloped glazing
Sloped glazing differs from other skylights in that one assembly contains multiple infill
panels in a framing system, usually designed for a specific project and installed in sections
on site.



Many people end up choosing a skylight that is far too large for their house in order to try to add as
much light as possible. Unfortunately, even the best skylights have much poorer insulation than a
comparable space of roof, so a large skylight allows large amounts of heat to escape during cold
weather, and too much heat to enter the house during warm weather. For this reason, it is
recommended to consider how much direct sun the roof receives, and how great the temperature
shift is from season to season, before choosing a skylight. In general, a skylight allows
approximately eight times as much light to enter the house as a comparably sized wall window.
There are nine main skylight styles in use, which may be used for both ventilating and fixed
skylights. Five of these are relatively common in small to mid-sized houses, with the cost and
difficulty of installation depending greatly on the style chosen.
A flat skylight is probably the most common, consisting of a square or rectangular piece of flat
glass or acrylic, which may be fixed or ventilating. A round skylight emerges from the roof as a half-
sphere bubble. A polygon skylight peaks up out of the roof with a number of glass or acrylic
polygons -- these skylights are considerably more expensive than simpler models, but are also very
aesthetically impressive. A pyramid skylight is a simple four-triangle pyramid which juts out of the
roof. Finally, a dome skylight is similar to a flat skylight, except that the glass rounds up past the
surface of the roof.
In addition to these primary residential styles, there are four styles of skylight more often associated
with large buildings. The hip ridge skylight is a long rectangular skylight which peaks up above the
roof surface to a central ridge, with a sloping triangular piece of glass on either short end. The ridge
skylight is a simpler version, with two long triangles sloping in towards one another, and straight
triangles closing off either end. The lean-to skylight is a simple slope which rises from the roof of
one story and ends by leaning against an upper wall of the next story. The barrel vault skylight is a
more complex form of the lean-to, which consists of a half-sphere against an upper wall, often seen
in large arboretums.

The two main materials used to construct a skylight are glass and acrylic. Both have their strengths
and weaknesses, and often it comes down to a simple matter of preference. Both have different
glazings available, different insulation factors, and a slightly different look to the trained eye. Some
other synthetic materials are also occasionally used, particularly Lexan, which has the added benefit
of high durability, and is recommended for regions which experience powerful storms.
The glazing, insulation factor, and durability of a skylight are all additional factors to take into
consideration when purchasing a skylight. Glass skylights may be purchased with multiple panes,
with the area between the panes serving as a region of insulation. All skylights can be glazed to
shield against UV radiation, to reduce the amount of light allowed to pass, or to increase the amount
of heat that is retained.

Solar architecture
Skylights are widely used in designing daylighting for residential, public, and commercial buildings.
Increased daylighting can result in less electrical lighting use and smaller sized window glazing
(sidelighting), saving energy, lowering costs, and reducing environmental impacts. Daylighting can
cut lighting energy use in some buildings by up to 80%.
Toplighting (skylights) works well with sidelighting (windows) to maximize daylighting:
1. toplighting is able to bring light into centralized areas of a building
2. daylight is available throughout the day from both ambient lighting from the sky and direct
exposure to the sun.
3. modern transparent and/or translucent glazing can be utilized to avoid glare, aid in capturing
sunlight at low angles and diffuse light to wider areas of floor space.
Even on overcast days, toplighting from skylights is three to ten times more efficient than
sidelighting.


Materials
Glass
Many recent advances in both glass and plastic infill systems have greatly benefited all skylight
types. Some advances increase thermal performance, some are focused on preserving and utilizing
daylight potential, and some are designed to enhance strength, durability, fire resistance and other
performance measures.
Contemporary skylights using glass infill (windows) typically use sealed insulating glass units (IGU)
made with two panes of glass. These types of products are NFRC-ratable for visible transmittance.
Assemblies with three panes can sometimes be cost-justified in the coldest climate zones, but they
lose some light by adding the third layer of glass.
Glass units typically include at least one low emissivity (Low-E) coating applied to one or more glass
surfaces to reduce the U-factor and especially SHGC by suppressing radiant heat flow. Many
varieties of Low-E coatings also reduce daylight potential to different degrees. High purity inert gas is
frequently used in the space(s) between panes, and advances in thermally efficient glass spacing
and supporting elements can further improve thermal performance of glass-glazed skylight
assemblies.
Plastic
Plastic glazing infill is commonly used in many skylights and TDDs. These assemblies typically
contain thermally formed domes, but molded shapes are not uncommon. Domed skylights are
typically used on low slope roofs. The dome shape allows for shedding of water and burning embers.
Plastics used in skylights are UV stabilized and may feature other advances to improve thermal
properties. Lack of accepted standards for measuring light transmittance is a disadvantage for
comparing and choosing skylights with plastic glazing.
Acrylic is the most common plastic glazing used for dome skylights.
However, Polycarbonate and Copolyester materials are also used as glazing, where additional
properties such as impact resistance may be required.
Rating systems
NFRC rating for visible transmittance
U-factor expresses the heat loss performance of any building assembly.
SHGCSolar Heat Gain Coefficient measures the assemblys transfer of heat from outside to
inside that is caused by sunlight.
These properties are labeled in the U.S. as a decimal between zero and one, with lower numbers
indicating lower heat transfer rates. Depending on the geographic region, optimal U-factor and
SHGC performance will vary. In the sunny southern climate zones, a lower SHGC is more important
than lower U-factor. In the cooler northern climate zones, lower U-factor is more important, and
higher SHGC can be justified.
In selection of skylights, a balance is sought between low U-factor and optimal SHGC values, while
preserving enough daylight supply to minimize artificial light use. Automatic light sensing controls for
electric lighting maximize energy savings.

Benefits
A study concluded that students have significantly higher test scores in classrooms that optimize
daylighting, than classrooms that do not. Other studies show that daylight positively affects
physiological and psychological well-being, which can increase productivity in many contexts, such
as sales in retail spaces.
In terms of cost savings, U.S. DOE reported that many commercial buildings can reduce total energy
costs by up to one-third through the optimal use of daylighting. The majority of commercial
warehouses and 'big box stores' built in recent years have used skylights extensively for
energy/costs savings.