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Are Skylights Right for Your Commercial Building?

skylight on commercial buildingThere are 10 things building owners should know about the pros and cons of installing skylights

There’s something magical about sunlight. When you walk into a dark and dank room, letting in natural light can immediately turn it into a more welcoming place. That’s why the first thing many people do when they wake up is to throw open the curtains, and homes are often designed to let sunlight into as many nooks and crannies as possible. 

It can be more challenging to bring natural — or at least natural-feeling — light into the innards of commercial buildings, so many owners look for creative ways to brighten things up. LED lighting is popular for providing natural-color light, but there’s an old-school tactic that’s getting a lot more consideration: skylights. 

Are skylights a good way to brighten up your office or any other type of commercial building? Here are the pros and cons building owners should consider.

5 Advantages of skylights

1. Saving Money

The operating costs of a commercial building can be extremely high, with heat and electricity typically at the top of the list of expenses. Skylights immediately help in both areas by allowing free light and heat into the area. Buildings with skylights generally turn on lights and heat less frequently than those without them, which saves a substantial amount of money every month.

2. Less impact on the environment

Buildings account for as much as 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Anything owners can do to reduce that number should be a high priority. In addition to saving money, installing skylights and running the electricity and heating systems less can significantly lower a building’s carbon footprint.

3. Improved aesthetics

Buildings that have a lot of natural light streaming in appear to be warmer and more inviting. In addition to creating a nice atmosphere for employees to work in every day, clients, customers, and visitors will also appreciate the glow.

4. More productive workers

Studies have shown that natural light in the workplace makes employees more productive, and there could be a number of reasons for this. According to the World Green Building Council, natural light makes people feel more engaged while they work. It also helps people produce more Vitamin D, which can ease depression and chronic pain, and even make them happier. All of these factors can improve employee health and happiness, resulting in fewer sick days.

5. Increased building value

Perhaps the most compelling reason to consider skylights is that they can raise the value of your building. Due to the factors above, offices with a lot of natural light can be leased for hirer rents — as much as $4 more per square foot.

Disadvantages of skylights

1. Too much light

A skylight giveth and taketh away. While natural light is great, too much direct sun can be a bad thing. If employees need to wear sunglasses while working in certain locations or avoid rooms at certain times of the day due to excessive brightness, that can hinder productivity. These issues can usually be avoided by installing skylights on the north-facing part of the roof or placing them higher on the roof, but it’s an issue that needs to be considered in the planning phases.

2. Too much heat

When too much light is coming in, it can cause the room, or even the whole building, to warm up. While this can be great for heating the building in January, rooms can get uncomfortable if it’s not properly designed. Fortunately, there’s a solution for this too. Window films or glazing help prevent too much direct light from coming in, which will reduce the heat.

3. Roof space

To get the most benefit from skylights, plan to dedicate 7 to 10 percent of the total roof space to them. With a small roof, this can be a big obstacle. Even with a large roof, skylights may not be feasible if equipment, vents, or an HVAC system are installed on the roof. And there still needs to be enough room for maintenance to walk and work on the roof.

4. Leak risks

Anything that penetrates the surface of a roof can be a potential leak, particularly something as big as a skylight. If they are not installed properly or unable to withstand heavy rains, water can seep inside. The same is true for snow: When it blankets a roof and starts to melt, the water will find any crack or crevice and seep inside. It’s important to have experienced professionals install appropriate skylights for your climate.

5. Breakage risks

Roofs can take a pounding. Aside from precipitation, when strong winds blow, they can be hit with tree branches and other debris. While asphalt or concrete roofing can withstand a lot of damage, the same isn’t true for glass. A flying rock or other debris can cause cracks and other damage. The possibility of a skylight breaking, or even falling, is especially troublesome during the winter when the snow gets heavy. Again, this can be addressed by making sure the skylights and the installation crew are appropriate for the weather your building sees. 

Skylights could be a great addition to your commercial building, but it’s important to consult with a roofing expert before moving forward with any project. Peck Brothers Roofing is here to answer your questions about space constraints, the installation process, or any other aspect of installing skylights in your commercial building. We will gladly go over all your options and work with you to create the best solution. Give us a call at 201-791-3235 or just fill out our online contact form.

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