Ventilating atrium skylights let in natural air and light

UK Hydrographic Office

New case study

Two hundred modules of the VELUX Modular Skylight system were installed as part of an innovative lighting and ventilation strategy led by BAM Construction and AHR Architects for the Ministry of Defence’s new UK Hydrographic Office. Modularised and prefabricated, the modular skylights simplified a complex specification for natural daylight, first-class ventilation, and modern aesthetics in a central atrium area at the heart of the new development.

BAM Construction were appointed as the main contractor for the UK Hydrographic Office back in 2016 and worked with AHR Architects to build this 11,000 square foot office space which would support the new, digital-first vision of the UK Hydrographic Office. The project incorporated the development of multiple office spaces with a central atrium area where employees can collaborate, relax, and communicate with one another. 

Creating Vibrant Office Spaces with Skylights and Natural Daylight

The incorporation of natural daylight and ventilation were key design principles in creating a welcoming and pleasant environment for employees at the UK Hydrographic Office. Through the creative use of lighting, AHR Architects worked to instil a sense of ownership and pride in  those working at the office to afford clear benefits in terms of motivation, employee retention, and overall productivity in the workplace. Minimising the building’s energy use for both lighting and temperature regulation was also a key concern, which led to the VELUX Modular Skylight system being agreed as the most suitable product for this specification by both BAM Construction and AHR Architects.

Dermot Parkinson, Project Manager for the UK Hydrographic Office at BAM Construction explained: “At the very beginning it was made clear that bringing natural light into the building was a key design specification for this project, and so we had to look at how we could draw that light into the building via the central atrium effectively. Through discussion with the architects for the project, AHR Architects, we selected the VELUX Modular Skylight system as the most likely to provide that natural daylight, but also support the natural ventilation required for the building management system. We then developed a series of beams in collaboration with VELUX to support the 200 skylights specified and we were very happy with the support and service offered by VELUX.

Dermot Parkinson

Project Manager for the UK Hydrographic Office at BAM Construction

VELUX have a tried-and-tested range of skylights which are well designed and provide a robust solution for bringing in that natural light; this has been demonstrated across a range of previous projects. But ultimately the most important aspect of products like these is their ability to keep the weather out under any circumstance, especially in highly exposed areas. In this respect, VELUX were able to demonstrate all the testing and documentation for their skylights which provided the assurances we needed that they’d keep the weather out. The skylights themselves are also very high quality and thanks to the aftersales support that VELUX offers, we know that we can draw on the relationship to ensure that things look as good in 20 years time as they do today.”

Regulating Daylight, Noise, and Ventilation in Commercial Office Spaces 

To offer a light and welcoming atmosphere, AHR Architects designed the central atrium using VELUX modular skylights alongside timber baffles to create something of a coffered ceiling effect. This was done to bring a steady degree of light into the building whilst mitigating glare caused by too much direct sunlight. This combination allows for the building to benefit from a steady and pleasant level of lighting throughout the day. In addition, the baffles also provided the added benefit of acoustic absorption which allowed for the creation of a vibrant space between busied offices without too much of the noise passing between these spaces.  

In terms of ventilation, The UK Hydrographic Office was also designed so that air is strategically drawn in through the sides of the building wings and up into the atrium roof where the modular skylights sit. As both the openable and fixed units of the VELUX Modular Skylight system appear visually identical, AHR Architects were able to adopt a more long-term approach to strategic ventilation. A larger degree of openable units were specified for across the office roof which allows for a far greater amount of air to pass through and therefore improve the ventilation capacity of the building should the building’s needs change at any point in the future.

Saving Time and Money with Prefabricated Modular Skylights

As with all building projects, timing and scheduling were key. VELUX modular skylights were installed by Daylight Solutions, a specialist installer of roof lighting systems and a proud installation partner of VELUX. Having worked with VELUX since 2014, the organisation came equipped with a clear understanding of VELUX’s product range and how to install them efficiently. Indeed, thanks to both the expertise of Daylight Solutions and the simplicity of the VELUX Modular Skylight system, the project was able to progress quickly and efficiently without any real complications or costly delays. Delivered on time and to specification, the units were then lifted onto the roof and installed within a mere five days. 
The prefabricated and modularised nature of the VELUX Modular Skylight system allowed for the units to be installed without the use of scaffolding and thus circumvented a large amount of the preparatory works in addition to minimising many of the associated safety risks when working at height. Instead, Daylight Solutions were able to complete the installation of the products with a simple safety net setup which saved a considerable amount of time and effort without questioning the important aspect of safety. Further to this, the modularised nature of the system also optimised the impact of weather conditions and allowed for the building to be made watertight much more quickly and mitigate safety risks presented by weather conditions.

Adam Spall, Regional Director of AHR Architects explained: “One of the challenges on this building was that it had a very tight programme with a high specification. Ultimately we had to construct this 800-square metre atrium roof, 3 storeys up, without sterilising the space below it which is a huge challenge in and of itself. Prefabrication and modularisation were really essential to that. The concrete beams that the roof lights sit on were all fabricated off-site, along with the timber baffles, steelwork, and timber cladding that hooked onto it. The roof lights themselves were then installed from above with safety nets, meaning we didn’t need to scaffold the atrium and avoided many of the complications we might otherwise have experienced on site.”

Scott Russell

Director of Daylight Solutions Limited

From an installer’s point of view, I’ve installed pretty much every rooflight system on the British market. The VELUX modular system has such a smooth installation process where you’ve not got this complicated box of bits and pieces that need to go together. It’s a very simple modular system that goes together, piece-by-piece, in a self-explanatory and efficient way, which really helps when it comes to installing them.

The UK Hydrographic Office project is a perfect example of how simple it can be for buildings to create a truly vibrant, light, and inviting atmosphere without all the traditional complications or costly delays that tend to come with that. This is possible only through the use of innovative, modularised and prefabricated systems such as VELUX Modular Skylights to take pressures off the contractor and installer and allow them to do what they do best.

VELUX were involved at each and every stage of the project process, which saw the organisation work with AHR Architects from the early days of design conception through to working alongside both BAM Construction and Daylight Solutions during the installation process. As such, VELUX takes great pride in working on this project and showcasing the benefits that prefabricated and modularised lighting systems can bring, not just for the end-client, but also for the contractor, architect, and installer.

Simon Inch, Specification Development Manager at VELUX concluded: “I’m absolutely delighted to have seen this project right the way through from inception, through the design progress, talking with BAM and talking with other influencers as well. It has been a truly enjoyable project to work on.” He added: “To actually see it come through and see all of the building in its glory is absolutely fantastic. It’s a real privilege to see from one end of the process to the other and the end result looks amazing.”

Watch the UK Hydrographic Office video case study or book a CPD to find out more on the importance of daylight in commercial buildings and how light can be drawn in to create inviting workplace environments.

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