Green Movement Energizes Skylight Sales


Daylighting—using energy-efficient windows and skylights to increase occupant comfort and reduce reliance on artificial lighting—has become an important component of green building design.

In fact, the use of skylights in remodeling and replacement projects increased 2% last year and is expected to increase 6% this year, according to a recent study by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association. In contrast, demand for windows has decreased, as housing activity remains stagnant.

Potential energy savings are one reason that sales of skylights are expected to increase. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program found that optimal use of daylighting in commercial buildings can decrease energy costs up to a third. Although achievable savings in residential construction have not yet been quantified, they should be sizable as well.

“We take advantage of the energy provided by daylight and include it in our energy budget,” says green builder Matt Belcher, who owns Verdatek Solutions, Wildwood, Mo., and chairs the green building sub-committee at the National Alliance of Home Builders. “The percentage of daylight provided by skylights is significantly higher than that provided by vertical windows.”

Belcher is also project manager for Active House USA, which is being constructed in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis, Mo. This 2,600-sq. ft. home incorporates green building standards developed by the Active House Alliance, which was founded two years ago in Denmark.

“These homes take an innovative approach to energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and interaction with the surrounding environment,” says Mikkel Skott Olsen, chairman of Active House Alliance, who traveled from Denmark to attend the groundbreaking ceremony in Missouri. “They emphasize a holistic approach to sustainability and community-conscious home construction.”

To achieve these aims, Alliance House USA will have nine skylights and two sun tunnels. Also known as solar tubes, these fixtures funnel light from a roof-mounted unit to a ceiling-mounted fixture via a tube. Perhaps most importantly, sun tunnels bring natural light to places that other skylights—and windows—can’t reach.

 “Besides the energy-saving benefits, the amount of sunlight will increase the comfort of occupants,” says Belcher. “The primary aim is to improve the performance and the comfort of the home.”

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