The history of the conservation rooflight

The rooflight has arguably been a feature of architecture since Roman times when an oculus was included in structures such as the Pantheon in Rome – from the Latin word for ‘eye’, an oculus is a circular opening in the centre of a dome and was included in building design as a means of bringing in sunlight and as well as keeping a building cool by letting rain in.

Clement Conservation Rooflights

By the time of the Renaissance in Europe the oculus had evolved into a cupola atop a dome, such as those displayed at St Peter’s in Rome, the Duomo in Florence and St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, orangeries became popular in France and Italy as a means of wintering temperate plants in cooler climes.  These orangeries consisted essentially of buildings with a skylight built on top.

However, it wasn’t really until Victorian times that the rooflight became recognisable as the architectural feature we know today.

The Victorians originally designed wood-framed rooflights to bring light into dark agricultural buildings and to illuminate otherwise shadowy spaces such as stairwells.  By the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851, industrial developments in metal-work and glazing meant that impressive structures such as the Crystal Palace could be constructed, displaying vast areas of glazing supported by steel frames.

From that point on, rooflights continued to increase in popularity, most loved for their ability to bring in abundant natural light, to increase good ventilation and to enable views of the surrounding countryside.

Today modern rooflights abound, but the conservation rooflight harks back to Victorian times.  Designed to imitate the low profile of a Victorian rooflight, conservation rooflights fit flush to the roof rather than projecting above the roof line so they do not detract from the overall character and appearance of a property.  Their main distinguishing feature is the ‘T’ bar down the centre of the window pane which is taken from the original Victorian design.  One of the best examples of this ‘T’ bar feature can be seen in Alfred Waterhouse’s main hall at the Natural History Museum in London completed in 1880.

Despite their traditional looks, modern conservation rooflights boast the features of a 21st century building products.  By allowing abundant natural light to fill a room they reduce the need for artificial lighting, thereby lowering energy consumption and carbon emissions and improving the health and mood of anyone who uses the space.

Clement Conservation Rooflights are available from stock in eight standard sizes, but they can also be tailored to bespoke designs.  Available in two profiles, for both slate and tile roofs, they are silicone fronted to give the appearance of traditional Victorian putty glazing.  Each rooflight is fitted with a self-cleaning 24mm insulated glazed unit and there is a choice of winders and actuators to make opening as straightforward as possible.  Recently awarded an “A” Window Energy Rating by the British Fenestration Rating Council, Clement Conservation Rooflights performed extremely well in rigorous test situations.