A skylight alone will not do; one needs properly placed air vents that are also meshed

The story of skylights can be a part story of architecture. It's amazing to see how the idea continues to excite people even today and the readers' response is proof!

How did the idea of skylights originate in modern buildings? It is difficult to pin down a date or a specific architect as the starting point, but we can perhaps imagine a slightly humorous response.

In a crowded locality, when each house was tightly sandwiched with no light seeping in from either side, all that people perhaps could think of was look up and pray, “God, please give us light.” As they looked up, the idea of opening up the room to the sky must have originated!

Air vents

Anyway, while we seek light from the sky, we definitely do not seek heat, mosquitoes or drizzle. Accordingly, adequate care and proper design detailing need to be followed.

Theoretically, what a skylight does is to let the air just beneath the glass get heated up, then let it escape through air vents placed there, so that fresh air rises from the bottom.

Provision for air vents below the glass is mandatory, it ensures air movement through the building.

Vents could be simple voids in the wall, perforated blocks or even a few round pipe sections inserted into the wall. Without this detailing, the building ends up like a green house for growing vegetables, making living miserable.

Vents can be the easiest route for mosquitoes, hence fixing a mosquito mesh is as mandatory as having vents. These vents with the mesh should be at the highest location, with access to the mesh for periodic maintenance.

Naturally, they should be towards the flat part of the terrace.

Also, adequate protection from rain coming into the house should be provided in the form of a small chajja or deeply set vents.

Safety

Designing the skylights with the safety factor is another important consideration. Let not the glass tops be a temptation for kids to play with, so guard them well with no sharp projections of glass from the wall edges.

Using flat terrace

Effective utilisation of the flat terrace despite having the skylights has always been a tricky issue.

Of course, one may provide openings along a sloping or curved roof to avoid the discussion altogether; however, most often, they happen on the flat part. After the staircase room, overhead water tank, may be some sloping roofs and such others, we are not left with much space in small plots.

Residents who need the terrace feel the pinch when the skylight cutout takes away some space too.

While there is no real solution to this problem, strategically positioning all these terrace needs by clubbing them in one area, to get the remaining area in one large parcel, could be a solution. If not, the terrace gets fragmented and would be of no larger use. One word of caution: while skylights are an exciting mode of creating a better house, indiscriminate use of skylights can create problems.

satyaprakash varanashi

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)