Ar. Babika Goel looks at skylights and atriums

Wall Mounted Pergola By Gibus
Wall mounted pergola by Gibus

Babika Goel

Having become popular in large commercial spaces and public buildings, retractable roofs, skylights and pergolas are now finding buyers in the residential sector as well, as the concept catches the imagination of developers, and architects are being called upon to integrate them in their projects, informs Architect Babika Goel.

Davis Studio Travis Price
Davis studio Travis Price
While many clients want us to design rooms that are filled with natural light, it is not always possible. Some rooms cannot have large window openings either because of space constraint or because of want of privacy from the neighbour. But then, creativity can be achieved through different forms, and solutions can be sought with the available materials. One such element which we architects play most with is the skylight. With this one feature, we are able to create visual contrast through misshapen depth, creating a sense of drama in the space.

In an interesting design solution, subtle light was brought in a writing studio by the architect Travis Price (in Washington DC) when he built a dome above his client's desk who wanted a hideout in his house; a rotunda similar to Oracle's temple at Delphi, but very different in usage.

Roof light domes, continuous roof lights and flat roof windows, combined with smoke and heat ventilation, building automation systems and photovoltaics act as active energy managers in malls, industrial warehousing, sports centres, and residential projects. In downtown Manhattan, BW Architects in New York created an interesting design detail wherein daylight was funnelled into a four storey house through structural steel skylights and an exposed manually-geared hardware operating a pivoting glass and steel penthouse wall.

BW Architects Townhouse Mall Of India Atrium
Mall of India Atrium
Heady Solutions
BW architects townhouse

In India, large glass slab edge atriums as seen in malls are popular. But when channelling daylight into a building, thermal insulation with reduced cost of maintenance becomes important. Glass companies like St.Gobain prepare a performance design report based on required specifications for U-value and solar heat gain coefficient. But it is the architect who balances the (often conflicting) natural light with the solar heat gain in such large openings, while companies like the European Lamilux and Indian company Miri Piri enable the final customisation and installation of the atrium.

Section Through Atrium
Section through Atrium

Architect Chetana Pant at DLF Mall of India, Noida, informs that the job of installing the atrium at India's largest mall was executed by Innovator Mumbai. The skylight provided brings in day light with minimum impact on the mall's HVAC. The skylight is a combination of Kalzip roofing with insulation in between the top and bottom sheet and clear glass. The clear glass used in the skylight is a Double Glazed Unit with argon gas filling, which is again energy efficient and reduces solar heat gain.

Architect Sanyogeeta Sule of SS Design Group is currently completing a dome for a residence at Malibu Towne, Sona Road, Gurgaon, with a focus on sustainability. The half dome was cast over cow dung in ferrocrete. The casting with timber shuttering would have been expensive, and a waste as the shuttering material would be used only once. The work required very little manpower for the work and the dome was constructed in just 3 to 4 days. The final installation of the dome with steel and glass is presently under progress.

Malibu Towne Dome
Another product being used extensively for covering large areas and letting light in is tensile fabric. It can be molded into any interesting shape as per the designer's creativity. It gives diffused light, which is ideal for Indian climatic conditions. PVC roofing systems where the fabric without guide rails can be folded to give an unobstructed view of the sky and can be designed as pergolas with shades. In fact, the Roman Colosseum built in 80 AD used to have a retractable roof. The 'velarium' was a sloped canvas awning pulled manually to save the spectators from the glaring sun and catch the wind to create a breeze for the spectators. The velarium or awning at the Colosseum could be extended or retracted with ropes and pulleys according to the position of the sun.

Gibus for instance, offers a complete solution from customisation and installation to after-sales service, has effectively brought a solution to drainage. A new entrant in the Indian market, Gibus, brings an efficient drainage of water integrated in the legs of its powder coated aluminium pergolas, with stainless steel brackets and components.

The Indian market is gearing up to offer international quality products at the most competitive rates, and giving customers value for money. As architects, we stay abreast of the latest design trends, materials, developments and technologies in the roofing industry so that we can come up with new and more effective roofing solutions.
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