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Making the Most of Skylights

- Continued

Grouping and Placement

Grouped Skylights

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Figure 3. Ganging or stacking skylights are good ways to admit added light between existing roof trusses.

The deeper the shaft, the more we start to think about stacking or ganging multiple skylights (Figure 3, above). In bringing shafts down between roof trusses that are 2 feet on-center, this is your only option to give a room significant punch (Figure 4, below). No matter what the length, a single 2-foot-wide shaft will probably look lost in a 12x15 room, so we group two, three, or four together.

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Figure 4. Three 20-inch-wide shafts defined by roof trusses are interconnected by heating louvers, allowing excess summer heat to be exhausted by a thermostatically controlled exhaust fan.

Deep and narrow shafts have the unexpected side benefit of softening the entering sunlight by bouncing it off the shaft interior. That can be especially useful for balancing the lighting in rooms that have only one outside wall, as these rooms tend to have a problem with glare. With all the light coming from one direction, it's as if you were in a cave with all the light entering through the mouth. If we are using skylights mainly to balance lighting in a room, we are likely to locate the shaft close to a wall, so the light can bounce off it. Another imaginative possibility for an exceptionally deep shaft — especially one that punctures one floor plane on its way down to another — is to direct some of that light into the upper space by way of a window (Figure 5, below).

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Figure 5. Ganged skylights admit daylight to the kitchen through a wood-paneled shaft (right). An opening to the study loft above the kitchen allows the same skylights to illuminate that space as well (above).

Other Options

Skylights are just one of the tools in our daylighting kit. We also use transoms, clerestories, dormers, solar tubes, glass block, and inside glass. All of the stacked windows and skylights we use have the same purpose: to lead the eye upward toward the sky, and help the occupants feel a connection with the outdoors. It's been said that the number one reason people remodel is for more light. A bright, well-lit remodel is a strong, silent salesman for your business, and one that potential clients never fail to notice and admire.

Doug Walter, AIA,

is a residential architect based in Denver.