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Skylights Light Varndean School's Eco Building

Ritchlight Ultra Lantern Skylights, Varndean School

Skylights from Brett Martin Daylight Systems were specified by Brighton and Hove City Council architects for the £2.5 million redevelopment of a secondary school on the basis of their thermal efficiency and quality of construction.

The two 3.4 x 2.4m Ritchlight Ultra skylights lie end to end on the flat ridge of a 750m2 extension at Varndean School where two ICT classrooms and sports changing rooms at ground level are topped by a library with vaulted ceiling on the first floor.

The architects wanted to maximise natural light using traditionally proportioned lantern-type skylights but not at the detriment to the overall efficiency of the eco-friendly building which features under floor heating and a rainwater recovery system that supplies toilets to the school.

Ritchlight Ultra’s fully thermally broken frame virtually eliminates any additional heat loss through the frame which is traditionally associated with skylights, and eradicates any cold spots, dramatically reducing the risk of condensation.

The addition of a thermal break in the Ritchlight Ultra’s kerb separates the aluminium structure of the high-performance skylight into internal and external components. For the first time this provides a skylight with a frame that matches the performance of the glazing, which is available in a range of options, enabling specifiers to achieve U-values as low as 1.1W/m²k – double the insulation values required by Part L Building Regulations.

The fact that the skylights are also fitted with electrical opening vents automatically controlled with temperature and rain sensors was a bonus for Stephen Toomey, senior architect in the city council’s property and design department.

Varndean’s Ritchlight Ultra skylights also feature antisun glass and the aluminium glazing frame is dual coloured – white inside and a dark brown outside to complement the pantiles. Completing the total package was the installation which was carried out in two days by Brett Martin’s own in-house installation team.

Constructed of steel frame with masonry walls, glulam timber roof structure and traditional pantiled roof, the extension and remodeling of other areas of the 1930's former grammar school for girls was required to increase the role of the school, which is designated a high-performing specialist school with specialism in music and vocational/applied learning, by five classes.

Stephen Toomey, who has used Brett Martin’s Mardome rooflights in a previous project, said: “The planners and councillors wanted a contemporary building to blend with the existing original 1930's school and the Ritchlight Ultra skylights were used to provide natural light and ventilation over the centre of the library space.  They were chosen for their thermally-broken frames and quality of construction and help to create a stunning space over the library. The client is very happy with the new facility.”

He added: “I wanted as much natural light as reasonably possible, using traditionally proportioned lantern-type rooflights, but didn’t want them to be detrimental to the overall efficiency of the building.  Ventilation is a bonus that will be useful on hot and wind-less summer days. With roof and wall thermal insulation exceeding current regulations and the use of underfloor heating, I am confident running costs will be low.”

Mark Whitby, who was Varndean's headmaster at the time, added: “The new space created for the library is amazing, I especially like the light and spacious feel provided by the vaulted ceiling.

Find out more about Ritchlight Ultra skylights or download the Education Pack.