04 Sep 2017

Nicolas Tye explains how rooflights can offer self-builders a home bathed in natural light

In 2001, young Architect Nicolas Tye bought a barn conversion in Bedfordshire, then took 12 months out to renovate it. 16 years on, Nicolas Tye Architects (NTA) is a prosperous practice with 20 staff – and that barn conversion is its award-winning headquarters.


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Today, NTA is noted for its distinctive style, emphasising space and natural light, and a subtle mix of Asian and Scandinavian influences – trademarks perfectly complemented by the premium-quality rooflights manufactured in the UK by Leicester-based Roof Maker. Writing exclusively for i-build, Nicolas Tye explains how high-end roof windows can enhance your living space, and offer that much sought-after sense of space and light.

“The question architects get asked the most is the same one that house-builders and design experts have been grappling with for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – how do you take a building with a roof and four walls, that’s almost completely closed off from the outside world, and inject it with a sense of spaciousness and natural light?

“To some, it might seem like a stupid question, with an incredibly obvious answer – add in more windows. But conventional glazing has its limitations. By their very nature, windows are on the outside of a house. In smaller properties, this isn’t as much of a problem – there isn’t much interior space that’s not within a few feet of a window. But in larger, more complex properties, or unusually-shaped ones, it’s a different story.

“This is the great strength of rooflights, roof lanterns and other roof window products – they let natural light penetrate deeper into a building. By introducing it from above, they can light spaces in the property that conventional windows can’t reach.

“Strategically positioned, they can maximise the amount of natural light entering the home. They can be situated in such a way that they follow the path of the sun, ensuring that, wherever it happens to be in the sky, there’s always an area of the property that’s benefitting from it.

“They can also help optimise ventilation in the home. If openable rooflights are installed in the right place, they can improve airflow through the building, preventing overheating in the summer months.

“The clients I see are often eager to incorporate as much roof glazing as possible – and with conventional rooflights, this can be an issue. Many brands are very limited in terms of the sizes they can achieve – which means that large numbers of individual roof windows have to be crowded into small spaces to get the desired effect, which looks cluttered and isn’t cost-effective.

“This is the key advantage of the kind of bespoke rooflights manufactured by Roof Maker. They can be produced to huge sizes with only the slimmest of frames, thereby letting in an abundance of natural light with fewer products – and they’re among the highest specification roof window products available in the UK.

“This is another crucial consideration that I’m always keen to impress upon my clients – with rooflights, the specification matters. The roof window market is dominated by brands that are household names, and that perform well enough in certain contexts, but aren’t built to last.

“The seals on cheaper rooflights are subject to fail – leading to internal condensation, and an ugly ‘misting’ of the window itself. In worse cases, they can leak.

“Roof Maker products, on the other hand, are designed and manufactured in the UK, and come with an unprecedented 20-year seal warranty, a 10-year guarantee against discolouration, cracking, shape deterioration and component failure, and a one-year guarantee on any motors, switches, climate control units or other electrical items within the product.

“Where conventional roof window products often offer poor thermal performance, leading to substantial heat loss, and, in the winter months, higher energy bills, Roof Maker’s windows achieve U-values of just 0.6, among the lowest available anywhere in the UK.

“Very often, when clients come to me, it’s to realise a vision that’s been years in the making. My advice to anyone embarking on an ambitious home improvement project would be the same as the advice I’d give to my own customers – when it comes to light and space, don’t compromise.”

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