Bespoke rooflight manufacturer Whitesales has worked on various high-profile historical building restorations and refurbishments over the company’s 25 years, most recently at Somerset House, the London Palladium and Easthampstead Park. While no two projects – or indeed no two rooflights – have been the same, there are common threads that link them all: the three Cs of heritage rooflight replacement.
All historical buildings demand a respectful restoration, not just those whose importance has attracted listed status. The challenge of replicating original skylights becomes greater, however, when there are restrictions in place.
The proprietary extruded aluminium frame system Whitesales developed for its Em-Glaze bespoke glazed rooflights is ideal for replicating even the earliest skylights in British architecture. Its low-profile, slimline dynamic makes it relatively straightforward to match the dimensions of original frames, yet it’s structurally strong enough to be self-supporting, to hold triple glazing, remain weathertight even under the harshest conditions, and it can be powder-coated to any RAL colour to recreate the exact aesthetic of the original. What’s more, Em-Glaze bespoke can be designed in all sorts of shapes and sizes: flat glass linked, monopitch, pyramid, lantern, ridgelight, polygon, elliptical.
Collaboration is vital in this specialist area of the construction industry, and all parties need to be involved at the earliest stages of planning. Consulting the entire cross-section of experts, from the designers of custom skylights to heritage restoration experts and other master craftsmen, ensures that the whole process can be planned in perfect detail. Early involvement means that specialists can consult with conservation groups and the whole client team together, ensuring an open, transparent and cooperative approach to the works.
Consulting early with Historic England, English Heritage and other national and local conservation groups – and remaining available throughout the building’s refurbishment ensures that custom rooflights are authentic enough to meet all stakeholders’ approval, not just that of the client and contractor.
All rooflights must meet various standards of strength and performance under various conditions in order to meet building regulations standards. Moreover, they should work in combination with the existing building structure, fabric, ventilation systems and glazing to ensure that the building itself meets various environmental performance criteria.
That becomes more challenging when replicating 200-year-old skylights, but Em-Glaze’s low-profile, high-strength frame allows for even larger expanses of double or triple glazing to enhance thermal and acoustic performance. The glass can also be solar tinted to control heat gain and self-cleaning to reduce maintenance requirements.
Ventilation can be incorporated into the design, from passive trickle ventilation to manual hinged or electrically hinged sections and networked with wall switches, remote controls, wind and rain sensors – all enhance occupant wellbeing and keep interiors protected. In this way, the replacement rooflights are more than just compliant with stringent building regulations; they meet the occupant comfort levels a client is hoping for.
Best of all, Em-Glaze bespoke replica rooflights can be installed as fully certified and compliant smoke vents, extracting heat build-up and toxic fumes and smoke, by networking with smoke and fire detectors. Incorporating life-saving capability into a historical replica rooflight may not be everyone’s first instinct, but such possibilities emerge when you adhere to the three Cs and begin consulting early. When multimillion-pound restorations and refurbishments are planned, it’s surely wise to consider preserving that investment in history as comprehensively as possible.