How Clerestory Windows Can Bring Light to the Darkest Home

If you need to bring more light into your home without losing valuable wall-space, Clerestory windows could be the answer to your prayers.  Although mainly seen in the commercial sector or in contemporary/smart houses and apartments, these little gems are windows at high level (above your eye line). They are often used by architects and designers producing individual homes for self-builders but despite this, many aspiring self-builders do not actually know what they are.

The term ‘Clerestory’ was originally applied to the wall containing the windows above the nave (that’s the middle bit often incorrectly called the Aisle). So believe it or not, the Bride and Groom do not actually come down the aisle, they come down the nave! The windows created light and airiness in our magnificent cathedrals, which is exactly what the architects were trying to achieve. As the building technology developed to create bigger and bigger openings in the structure, the amount of opaque glass got larger and more impressive.

The main aim was to impress and show off to other cities just how technologically advanced they were. However, there is no doubt we are still impressed, even today, by so called curtain glazing or perhaps a well-placed little window that just manages by its position and orientation to allow some light to infiltrate into the otherwise darkest vestige of a house.

As house designers, it is this type of clerestory window that we are interested in because that little chink of light can be so effective in contemporary interior design. It can be unexpected, it can cast shadows picking up the sculptural nature of the structure and it can carry inside the mood of the day. Therefore, connecting you with the early morning sun, the turbulent sky or the hues of the setting sun.

From a practical standpoint, clerestory lighting can be useful to avoid overlooking in compact cities and it is the height of a window that determines how far light will penetrate into an otherwise gloomy room. Even with ordinary eye level windows, the width of the window will determine the light intensity in the room near the window. If you want the light to penetrate in then it is the height of the window that is important. There is also something to be said for orientating the clerestory window northwards because north light is more consistent. It also does not cause glare one minute requiring the blinds to be drawn and dinginess the next, making it necessary to turn the light on.

The other advantage in using north light is that solar gain and over-heating will not be a problem. Beware of using too much glass inclined to the south facing sky because of overheating. You will not need such a big glass area anyway because the light that they will allow in is much more effective than the equivalent window area. Lastly you may wish to avoid roof lights in bedrooms unless you are a very sound sleeper as hail hitting glass is very noisy and can be quite scary.

Another useful feature of a clerestory window is when your self-build or new extension is often overlooked on one side by an ugly wall or other feature belonging to the adjoining house that is very close to you. Therefore, it will provide light at a high level but the narrow size of the window will mean that the ugly feature can hardly be seen.

Clerestory windows are also useful on single storey houses when there is a projection outside the building in the form of a corridor; which is used to get from the front to the rear of a long, thin single storey house. A clerestory window therefore, can help counter the effect of the corridor by reducing the amount of light that enters the house.

When it comes to first floors on houses, you will often find a clerestory window tucked under the roof at the head of a staircase. Many architects feel that staircases often end up depending on artificial light and therefore, if they are properly lit, they can become much more of a feature. Additionally; many architects like to tuck an upstairs clerestory window under the eaves; as you have no external wall structure above that has to be supported by the window frame.

High level windows if fitted with the means to open can be a real joy to allow stale air out of a living space.  Drafts can be avoided and, as heat rises, a natural flow of air will circulate upwards, pulling cool and fresh air in from outside. That is if the space is designed with this in mind of course.

If you would like more information on how clerestory windows could work in your current home or proposed self-build home, please do contact Building Tectonics as we will be only too pleased to advise you.

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Adding Energy Efficiency to Your Home Construction or Remodelling Plan

The repair, maintenance and improvement market for UK housing is about 25 billion per year according to the Construction Products Association (CPA) economic forecasts. In fact, most homeowners are seeking energy efficient improvements as part of a larger home remodelling project according to CPA. There are a number of things you can do to enhance energy efficiency in your home during construction or remodelling.

Double glazed windows and loft and wall insulation
Put in double glazed windows to keep your home warmer, quieter and safer. You can also enhance the warmth and quiet by adding loft and wall insulation, which is much cheaper than replacing all your old windows with double glazed windows. Loft insulation is meant to stop heat from escaping through the roof while wall insulation prevents heat loss through walls. If you have solid walls, external wall insulation could be the best choice for retaining heat in your home. However, if your walls have a cavity, this can be filled up with insulation material to stop heat from conducting through the walls. Insulating your home can save you money on your fuel bills, and improves the energy efficiency rating of your home.

Energy saving appliances
Electrical appliances have made things like piles of dirty dishes very rare in most homes, and although they cost money to run there are tumble dryers, dishwashers, fridges, washing machines, ovens and other appliances that are incredibly energy efficient. For example, the Miele TMG840 WP heat pump dryer uses hot air to suck out moisture from clothes. The machine also switches off when its sensors detect that the clothes have dried.

Saving energy with the light bulb
Another way to enhance energy efficiency in your home is by installing LED light bulbs. Investing in the latest expensive LED light bulb could save you up to £240 each year according to an article in The Telegraph. You can also install smart LED lighting in your home to add to your list of control options instead of being restricted to on and off. For instance, the Lifx light bulb is compatible with the three main voice assistants, which means that you can control it with your voice. These lights also have apps that you can download on your phone and use to control the lights.

Energy saving appliances and light bulbs are reasonable options if you are renting or cannot afford extensive home remodelling projects at the moment. However, if you are constructing a new home, you can start making your home energy efficient from the moment the foundation is being laid.

Two Bungalows for the Clarkson Bros

Building Tectonics were commissioned to produce architectural designs and gain the necessary approvals for two bungalows in the rear garden of a house in Bletchley. Both properties are very popular and have been completed, they could be sold many times over. The bungalows are quite deceivingly large with two bedrooms at first floor level and a third bedroom/study on the ground floor.

The light and airy feeling they engender internally is complimented by the way they sit within the site, responding as they do to the surrounding features. It can be quite a difficult feat for an architect to get all of these features right.

It is important for us to retain and utilize existing features such as trees to enhance the architecture and hopefully, perhaps, visa versa too.

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Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Something special.

This house was to be built next door to a Mr Stevens family home, and at the time of building, he had not yet decided whether to live in it himself or to sell it. Either way, it was going to be a little special, using the best materials.  We believe the client has decided that he must now live in it, which is perfectly understandable.

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Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Family Centre – NCH Action for Children

We were commissioned to build a family centre for an organisation called Action For Children, and so the new Greenleys Family Centre in Milton Keynes was opened in June 2000.

The new building had to be designed to fulfil a number of roles. It had to provide a “drop-in facility” for adults and children in a similar way to a local community centre. With play areas both inside and out, and kitchen facilities. The building had a more serious side too, as counselling rooms and administrative office space were also required.

It was an essential requirement that in addition to meeting the various users needs, it had to give a relaxed non-institutional vibe. Budgetary considerations dictated a very compact and efficient layout with a “no frills” building. Nonetheless by careful design we managed to create an interesting and functional building. Our philosophy of making a virtue out of necessity means that even the building fabric can be used to enliven an otherwise mundane building.

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The organisation of the spaces was difficult in that the orientation, direction of access and garden resulted in North facing rooms. To provide at least a degree of natural sunlight, a tower was introduced that illuminates the centre of the building. The tower improves the roof scape externally but, even more importantly also creates a “stack effect” driven ventilation system. Generally, renewable resources and a green agenda were at the forefront of the design.

The building was delivered on time and on budget.

 

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Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.