Skylight Design Guide
Which skylight features should you consider when designing your new dream spaces?
Create healthier spaces by customizing your indoor environments with just the right amount of light and fresh air when and where you need it most.
March 21, 2022
If you are in the process of building a new home or remodeling existing spaces, you might be considering large windows and scenic doors in your architectural plan. And that’s a good thing because many recent studies are confirming what we have intuitively believed for years: that stronger connections with the outdoors benefit both our physical and mental well-being.
And while expansive windows and doors are a great way to open your home to the outdoors, don’t forget about skylights. Skylights can complement most fenestration plans, and in some situations, they can be even more effective than windows and doors at delivering the many health benefits that natural light and fresh air have to offer.
Most living creatures have an internal clock that exists at a cellular level. Many of our essential biological processes are regulated by our internal clock and circadian rhythms, and the amount and type of light we receive during the day has a major impact on how our circadian rhythms perform.
For thousands of years, most human activities like eating, sleeping, and working were significantly influenced by the availability of daylight. Only with the relatively recent introduction of electric lighting have our behaviors changed. The idea of rising with the sun and going to sleep shortly after it sets is no longer the norm.
Not only are we less influenced by the movement of the sun, we are exposed to much less natural light than before. The average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors, and a good portion of that time is spent in spaces with no access to natural light. These changes have wreaked havoc on our circadian rhythms, which in turn has led to poor sleep and an increased rate of mental and physical illnesses. Fortunately, with thoughtfully designed living spaces and the implementation of modern technology, we can mitigate many of the adverse effects our modern schedules create.
Getting the proper amount of quality sleep is important, but let’s face it, not many of us have the luxury of waking with the sunrise, spending our entire day bathed in natural light, and then winding down our daily activities with the setting sun. Modern living can require us to get up early, stay up late, change time zones, and might even involve working second or third shifts. And living in far northern regions with shorter days during the winter can exacerbate the problems associated with circadian rhythms being out of sync.
One way to enjoy a better night’s sleep is to brighten up your favorite spaces with natural light during the day and take advantage of new technologies to help ease morning and evening transitions. That’s where the Marvin Awaken Skylight can help. Awaken is available with supplemental LED lighting, which is integrated into the frame and can be tuned to mimic the color temperature of natural light. Awaken is also smart home compatible and allows you to program the LED lighting to mimic the color temperature of sunlight throughout the day.
With an Awaken Skylight installed in your bedroom, you can program its lighting to replicate the light at sunrise to coincide with the timing of your alarm clock. You can then change that temperature during the day to match midday sunshine. And when you’re ready to turn in for the evening, you have the option to adjust your room’s lighting to reproduce the light temperature of a sunset, which can help you doze off and improve your quality of sleep.
In addition to sleep quality, your circadian rhythms also influence autonomic nervous system functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, digestion, and hormone and metabolism regulation. Disruptions and inconsistencies in your circadian rhythm can increase your chances of experiencing physical and psychological conditions like:
And while skylights should not be considered a “cure” for any of these conditions, installing skylights with automatic shades and tunable lighting options will help control your environment throughout the day, which can alter your circadian rhythm into better accommodating your unique schedule. Maintaining a balanced circadian rhythm that’s in tune with your lifestyle can not only improve your sleep but the quality of your overall health and well-being.
Exposure to glare can cause eye strain and can be extremely uncomfortable for those who suffer from cataracts, dry eye, or macular degeneration. One nonintuitive solution to glare is to introduce more light into a room. Glare is not necessarily caused by the existence of too much light. It occurs when your eyes move back and forth between two adjacent surfaces with highly contrasting levels of brightness. If one lone window is placed in the center of a large wall, that window might produce more glare than another wall in the same home that has floor-to- ceiling glass. That’s because there is greater contrast between the one lone window and the walls, floor, and ceiling that surround it. Whereas an all-glass wall lights up the adjacent surfaces causing less contrast. Strategically installing skylights in a room can disperse the light evenly and reduce glare.
While skylights are an excellent way to enjoy the many benefits of adding more light into your home, many people overlook how effective they are at bringing fresh air into indoor spaces and removing hot, polluted air. When the outside air cools down in the evening, opening a window to bring in fresh air is a simple way to reduce indoor temperatures without an air conditioner. If the winds are calm, it could take a long time for the house to cool down. But the cooling process can be significantly sped up if you take advantage of the stack effect by installing a venting skylight, like Awaken, near the highest point of the house.
Warm air is lighter than cool air and naturally wants to rise like a hot air balloon. If you open both a venting skylight and a window at a lower level, the warm air inside the house will rise and exit the skylight, and in the process, pull in the cool outdoor air to take its place. That’s the stack effect. It’s an efficient way to move air without the use of any mechanical assistance and is also a great way to exhaust indoor pollutants and pull in fresh clean air.
The EPA estimates that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Some of those pollutants come from off-gassing formaldehyde and other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) found in the materials used to build and decorate your home. Some pollutants come from cleaning products and sterilizing chemicals, but a surprisingly large amount of indoor pollution is created in your kitchen. The carbon monoxide generated by cooking fuels like propane and natural gas, along with the pollutants created when frying foods, can combine to produce a surprisingly unhealthy atmosphere.
The Awaken Skylight excels at refreshing rooms quickly. It has an innovative projection venting system that allows air to pass through it faster, and built-in sensors that will alert you if it detects changes in VOC levels. Awaken is also equipped with moisture sensors that will automatically shut the unit if rain is detected, so no need to worry about forgetting to shut your skylight during a downpour.
There are dozens of studies indicating that stronger connections with nature and the outdoors can reduce stress, improve cognitive functions, elevate our mood, and increase our overall sense of well-being. More than ever, architects and home builders are taking a biophilic approach when designing homes and indoor spaces. Biophilic design is a design concept that places an emphasis on increasing an occupant’s connection to nature by using natural light, views of the outdoors, and other natural design elements, and skylights can be an integral part of any biophilic design strategy.
Awaken offers the largest sizes in the industry, and a large skylight may be the perfect way to build natural connections, especially if your home is in a more urban setting. While your home may not be surrounded by picturesque scenes of nature, you likely have access to some unobstructed view of the sky. And what could be more natural than being bathed in sunshine from above and enjoying expansive views that capture the movement of wispy clouds and the natural shadows they cast?