Windows, skylights, roof windows and sunrooms are key elements in any modern home. In fact, they are a mark of modern architecture. The number of windows per home has increased from an average of 8.6 to 15.5 in the last decade alone, and skylight numbers have grown too. Not only are homeowners requesting more windows, the windows they are getting are bigger. Replacement windows that fit the same size opening contain eight to ten percent more glass than windows of the past.
"This daylighting trend has led to new forms of design," says Robert Schindler of Great Lakes Window, Inc. "What we consider to be a typical design today, simply did not exist ten years ago. A good example is the window wall which is a new phenomenon. People would not use that many windows in the '70s and '80s because of energy reasons. With today's energy efficient windows, those concerns no longer exist. As a result, windows are taking over in home design."
The desire for more light and airier spaces is not new, however. Daylighting started with the Victorian homes which used windows as a design element. Frank Lloyd Wright also was fond of daylighting. He was noted for having said, "The best way to light a home is God's way."
Once windows became energy efficient, architects and designers took Wright's advice to heart and made windows the feature point of nearly every new home built. Now that trend is crossing over into the remodeling industry.
"As energy efficiency became the norm," says Schindler, "windows became more decorative - something to look at, not just through. The main reasons for purchasing windows today are beauty and aesthetics, not energy efficiency."
There is a resurgence of traditional window designs: prairie grids, leaded designs, bows, bays, and unusual shapes such as half circles, Palladian styles, arch-tops, eyebrows and more. Designers can create light patterns and moods by the windows they choose and how they place them. Homeowners today want a variety of light patterns, from the traditional vertical windows to the diagonal light gained through skylights and roof windows.
"Roof windows and skylights admit 30 percent more light, and offer better light distribution and better views, than traditional dormers, and are less costly to install," says Leslie Devore of Velux. "Another benefit of a skylight or roof window is privacy. There are times when a vertical window is not the best option. You may be backed up to neighbors or may not have the wall space, such as in a room tucked under the rafters."
If you decide to use a skylight, it should cover a minimum of ten percent of the total square footage of the room. You may want to cluster smaller skylights together for maximum effect or install one large skylight.
The key to creating the best daylighting design is to find a combination of vertical and diagonal light that can create the right mood for your home. Another option for bringing in the outdoors is to build a sunroom.
"Sunrooms are a creative way to add extra square footage," says Esposito. "You can open your home and draw more light into the home, while gaining living space at the same time."
The most influential motivation behind this trend toward more light-filled, open homes is most likely the psychological and physiological benefits. Scientists have proven that sunlight improves moods and production levels in businesses. People work and live better in settings with more natural light. It enhances moods, improves our health and can boost energy up to 24 percent, according to scientific experts. A home with maximum daylighting is the perfect retreat in this stress-filled world.