Design & Space Considerations for Industrial Skylights

By Jeff Brain | July 06, 2015

Lighting is a key consideration when designing a commercial space. It impacts the construction and operating budgets, as well as the occupant’s experience  in the building. Many designers and building owners harness natural sunlight with industrial skylights to supplement electric lighting, taking advantage of a free source of illumination. Although installing industrial skylights might create an additional upfront cost, the return on the investment is well worth it.

Like any other step in the design process, choosing the right industrial skylights takes careful consideration.  

Design Considerations for Industrial Skylights

When designing a space with industrial skylights, there are a number of factors to think about:

Duration and intensity of light

Maximizing the amount of natural light that is distributed throughout the day will help keep electrical costs down and increase the benefits for employees, students, or customers. However, not all industrial skylights provide the same quality of light. Prismatic skylights, for example, bring a lot of diffuse light indoors, but also cannot illuminate an interior when the sun is low on the horizon, while solar-tracking skylights provide ten hours of consistent light throughout the day.

Energy efficiency

Evaluating the heat gain and loss caused by industrial skylights is an important step in the design process. It impacts the overall energy efficiency of the building, because too much heat gain will increase air conditioning costs, and too much heat loss will increase the cost of heating during the colder months. The use of electrical lighting also plays a key role in energy efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy has stated that lighting accounts for over 20% of the total energy consumption in commercial buildings, and that at least 5% of this is used to counteract the heat generated by light fixtures with additional air conditioning.

LEED points

If LEED certification is one of your project goals, selecting the right industrial skylights can boost the number of points you are awarded. The USGBC takes into account details like energy performance, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design, and material sourcing. Depending on your location, lighting plan, and the materials you choose, you can earn up to ten LEED points with the right industrial skylights.

Roof area required

Industrial skylights take up space on the roof, and the amount of space varies depending on the type of skylight technology you select. For example, solar-tracking skylights provide more light with fewer units -- using approximately 1-2% of roof space -- and so they are a better option than traditional alternatives, especially if you need the roof space for HVAC systems or solar panels. Traditional flat skylights can take up to 10% of the total roof area to achieve the desired light levels, leaving little space on the roof for other building equipment.

Interior design

Factors such as where people will be in the building and the location of interior walls, partitions, and large objects will affect the placement of industrial skylights. Ceiling type is also an important consideration for skylight selection, since a building with a suspended or dropped ceiling may not be able to incorporate certain types of systems.

If you are interested in learning more about how to integrate an industrial skylight system into your building, get in touch with Ciralight today. We can help you determine the estimated return on investment of an installation of our SunTracker skylight system in your building.

Download A Buyer's Guide to Evaluating Industrial Lighting Products

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