Illuminating Your Space: Exploring Rooflights, Lanterns, and Skylights

Architecture, Inspiration — 04.06.24

There are many ways to maximise the amount of natural light and its flow within a space by introducing glass, whether as a roof lantern, skylight or with clever structural glazing. Each of these are versatile architectural features that play a crucial role in enhancing the visual appeal, functionality, and sustainability of a building. 

There are two important factors to consider when deciding if rooflights are right for your project. Firstly aesthetic, what is the look and feel you are going for? The second is architectural. If you are building a new extension you will need to justify heat loss and solar gain calculations, so your architect will have to ensure the design is in keeping with British standards. You will also need to meet ventilation requirements which may require part of your glazing to be openable.

Below, we delve into the characteristics and benefits of each lighting solution.


Bradley VanDerStraeten


Also known as roof windows or roof glazing, rooflights are horizontal windows installed on the roof of a building. These tend to be sleeker with a more contemporary aesthetic, running flat to the architectural structure; they are a more flexible option than roof lanterns because they can run across angled pitch roofs as well as flat roofs. These rooflights come in many forms, whether they are structural walk-on rooflights, for basements that extend under gardens or for upper floor terraces, or electrically operated that work with a rain sensor.

Available in various shapes and sizes, they can be fixed or openable for ventilation. Rooflights are typically made of glass or polycarbonate materials, allowing sunlight to penetrate into the interior spaces below.


Benefits of Rooflights:

  • Increased natural light: Rooflights maximize the amount of daylight entering a room, reducing the reliance on artificial lighting during daylight hours.
  • Improved ventilation: Openable roof lights facilitate airflow and ventilation, promoting a healthier indoor environment.
  • Enhanced views: Rooflights offer panoramic views of the sky and surroundings, adding visual interest to interior spaces.
  • Energy efficiency: By reducing the need for artificial lighting, roof lights help lower energy consumption and contribute to sustainable building practices.



Skylights are overhead windows installed in the roof of a building, allowing natural light to enter from above. They come in various designs, including fixed, vented, tubular, and operable skylights, and can be flat or domed in shape. Skylights are commonly used in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings to brighten up interior spaces and create a connection to the outdoors.


Benefits of Skylights:

  • Space optimisation: Skylights maximise natural light penetration without occupying wall space, making them ideal for rooms with limited windows or where privacy is a concern.
  • Daylight harvesting: Skylights capture and distribute sunlight efficiently, reducing the need for artificial lighting and lowering energy costs.
  • Health and well-being: Exposure to natural light has been linked to improved mood, productivity, and overall well-being, making skylights a valuable addition to any indoor environment.
  • Design flexibility: Skylights can be integrated into various roof types and architectural styles, offering flexibility in design and allowing for creative expression in building aesthetics.
Westbury Garden Rooms

Roof lanterns 

More dramatic and creating a focal point by building outwards to elevate the glass and frame the views, roof lanterns work almost as a raised window above the roof. They can add a sense of height to a space and make it feel taller and more light-filled as the geometry of the lantern being made up of several panes of glass can allow more light to filter through.

Often featuring a pyramid or octagonal shape, roof lanterns are commonly found in atriums, conservatories or extensions and are designed to create a focal point in a room, while allowing natural light to filter through.

deVOL Kitchens

Benefits of Lanterns:

  • Architectural appeal: Lanterns add architectural interest and character to a building’s design, enhancing its aesthetic appeal both internally and externally.
  • Daylight diffusion: The multiple glass panels of lanterns diffuse natural light evenly throughout the space, reducing glare and creating a softer, more diffused illumination.
  • Thermal efficiency: High-quality lanterns are equipped with thermal breaks and energy-efficient glazing, helping to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures and reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • Versatility: Lanterns can be customized in terms of size, shape, and materials to suit the specific design requirements of a project, offering versatility in architectural applications.

Structural glazing

This type of window takes the element of glass to a different level. Structural glazing offers a modern and elegant solution for creating visually stunning and high-performing building facades that seamlessly integrate with architectural design concepts. It allows glass to actually become part of the architectural fibre and framework of a building, bearing weight as well as lifting and angling glass so that it can flow from overhead and back down to the ground as a glass wall. This affords the opportunity of using it on multiple planes and creates a brilliant, glazed outlook that offers a juxtaposition to the more traditional building materials such as brick and plaster. It also brings in the maximum amount of natural light and provides wonderful views to the exterior.

Benefits of structural glazing

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Structural glazing systems offer a sleek and minimalist aesthetic, with uninterrupted expanses of glass that enhance the visual appeal of modern buildings.
  • Daylighting: The use of large glass panels maximizes natural light penetration into interior spaces, reducing the need for artificial lighting and creating brighter, more inviting environments.
  • Thermal Performance: High-performance glass and sealant materials, combined with thermal breaks in the support structure, help improve the energy efficiency of buildings by minimizing heat loss and heat gain through the facade.
  • Design Flexibility: Structural glazing allows for creative freedom in architectural design, enabling the creation of innovative facade solutions and unique building forms.
  • Durability and Weather Resistance: Structural glazing systems are engineered to withstand various environmental conditions, including wind, rain, and temperature fluctuations, ensuring long-term durability and weather resistance.
Matthew Woodward Architecture

Solar control glazing is becoming more and more popular, particularly on South / South west facing rooflights. Solar control glass is normal glass with a specialist metallic coating applied to reflect away infrared (longwave) radiation whilst allowing shortwave UV light through the glass. This reduces the heat from the sun while allowing the maximum amount of light into the property. 

It is also possible to retrofit a solar control film but the coating is preferable if ordering new rooflights. If you are going for structural glazing the manufacturer will normally be able to provide the structural information required, but you may need a structural engineer to check in some instances.

We would generally recommend going to a manufacturer who also does the installation for flat rooflights and certainly for structural glazing, so you have one point of contact for warranty in case of any problems down the line. 

When used individually or in combination, each of the glazing solutions offer unique opportunities to bring natural light into interior spaces, creating brighter, healthier, and more inviting environments for occupants to enjoy, while reducing the need for artificial lighting. 


At Zulufish, our dedicated architecture, design & build team approach each project with expertise and precision, simplifying the complexities of design to ensure our clients achieve both luxury and practicality. Get in touch with us today for a bespoke consultation.