A light solution

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Paul Trace, Managing Director of Tuscan Foundry Products talks about the benefits of rooflights and the role of the 'conservation rooflight'

With property prices still sky high and land hard to come by we are now utilising every redundant space in our houses to increase living areas. Also, we have quickly recognised the value in the renovation of redundant churches, farm buildings and service buildings into residential or office quarters. Adapting these historic buildings or having a loft conversion can be a sensitive issue, especially if the building is historic. Any alterations must be in keeping with the original architecture which could present a problem when introducing natural light into a building that was never intended for domestic purposes.

However, the rooflight is an ingenious concept that introduces natural light into a building discretely but effectively. They provide an even distribution of light to large low-level structures and can illuminate the dark areas in a room that windows could never reach. It's uncanny that rooflights now provide an ideal design solution for introducing light into a barn, as this was the Victorians original intention. Rooflights, in their most primitive form were a popular way to introduce light into agricultural buildings during the 18th century.

Therefore, we have gone full circle as rooflights are again providing a design solution for barn and other agricultural conversions but this time around have a high specification glazing to make them incredibly energy efficient. Invariably, agricultural buildings are situated in conservation areas and are often listed. Therefore, if a rooflight is going to be introduced it has to meet the conservation specifications of that particular area or type of building. Matthew Slocombe of SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) advises:

"Domestic conversion is not always suitable for old farm buildings. Where it's the only way to secure an old barn's future, ensuring the detail of the conversion work is sympathetic will be crucial to the scheme's success. Sympathetic detailing is also likely to be a condition of consent, if the barn is listed or in a conservation area. New openings should generally be kept to a minimum and should be of a simple form that respects the farm building's character. If rooflights are needed the Local Planning Authority will normally require a flush-fitting type."

In this situation a conservation rooflight would be required as they have been especially designed with a low profile. This means the rooflight will sit flush and not detract from the character of the building. It is also a common requirement that there is a minimum amount of framework visual especially when rooflights are linked together. In these cases steel conservation rooflights are ideal as they are made specifically to provide slender sections which are unobtrusive

As pointed out earlier, new openings should be kept to a minimum within a barn conversion. However, given that rooflights let in vast amounts of natural light this shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Sunspots can further enhance natural light but again are not allowed to be obtrusive to the architecture. It is advisable to contact your Local Conservation Officer or the Building Control Department to find out what is acceptable before going ahead with any conversation as it will need to be overseen if the building is of a sensitive nature.

Recently, Tuscan Foundry Products provided ten bespoke rooflights to allow light into a 18th century stable block which was being converted into three marionettes. Both English Heritage and the Local Conservation Officer were involved in overseeing this project. It was important that the external appearance of the conversation was dealt with sensitively to protect the historic architectural character of the Stable block and its setting. Although the rooflights were necessary to let in daylight they couldn't overlook the manor house and grounds. Bespoke conservation rooflights were chosen as they met the structural constraints of this listed building. Their long and narrow appearance meant they could be positioned high up the roof slope. This option also allowed the client to specify a mix of both opening and fixed casements.

Although conservation rooflights authentically replicate a traditional Victorian design for installation in period properties, their low profile design and fine lines of steel have infinite design possibilities with modern day architecture. They also benefit from having the highest specifications of glazing available including self-cleaning glass.

Provided rooflights are the right size and usea material sympathetic to the building architecture they can only increase in popularity. Not only do they provide a solution to lighting up dark areas, rooflights are energy efficient due to the amount of natural light they let in which in turn will reduce energy costs. Last but not least they may even be responsible for generations of geniuses as there is evidence to prove that brain functions respond better to natural light!

Lumen Rooflight
3 RMD Business Units, Holsworthy Industrial Estate
Holsworthy EX22 6HL United Kingdom
Tel: 0330 300 1090
Tel: 01409 255120

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