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Date published: December 12 2016

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Design tricks which help to draw light deep into a building are essential

When designing any space, particularly a home, daylight is one of the most important considerations - light affects our mood, concentration levels, well-being and enjoyment of a space.

The most successful spaces are often those which have more than one source of light, such as a dual aspect room or a kitchen with a skylight as well as windows. Many rooms have only one source of natural light and some have none, so design tricks which help to draw light deep into a building are essential.

Despite the constraints of planning, maximising light in a new build home is usually much more achievable than in an existing one, but the layout is always important for both. An open plan design allows larger multi-functional spaces to take advantage of existing windows, but such large areas are not always desirable or practical. So I am a big fan of flexible
spaces that can be opened up or closed down, to become more intimate, using large sliding or double doors.

Skylights can take many forms and it is worth identifying all the places where they could be introduced. They work particularly well above a central staircase which brings light down through the various floors of a building right into its heart.

In a contemporary house, skylights can be extremely large, whilst in a more traditional house they can be designed as domes, delicate roof lanterns or other architectural features. Natural light from a skylight can now be augmented with artificial concealed lighting behind a ‘laylight’ - ensuring that there always appears to be a good amount of daylight even on a dull day.

Technology can help in other ways too. Electric blinds are now easy to install to overcome any issues with heat buildup with glass roofs. Adaptable smart glass has also improved considerably in terms of the amount of light it lets through which can be particularly useful when installing glazed walls to separate a space used for two different purposes. Where
privacy is an issue, there is now a choice between traditional etched glass and new smart glass which can be turned from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch.

The way the windows in a house are dressed makes a bigger difference to light levels than many people realise. Most light comes through the top third of a window - so unless your
windows are unusually tall, avoid pelmets or heavy drapes. Carefully positioned mirrors integrated into the architecture of a building can be an effective way to reflect and bounce light through a building. Internal windows are another way to introduce light into interior spaces - particularly when used in conjunction with a large skylight.

However good a home’s lighting scheme may be, there is still no replacement for natural light and the way it constantly changes.

Author: Mike Fisher

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