Finished attics and bonus rooms, among the most used spaces in many homes, are often not as appealing and healthy as they could be. With additional natural light and fresh air, those spaces become more functional whether used as a study area or playroom for children or as an inviting, productive workplace or relaxation hideaway for adults.
Children in learning situations are particularly affected by natural light according to a 1999 study by Heschong Malone Group that tracked test scores of 21,000 students in California, Colorado and Washington. Researchers reported that learning rates were 26 percent higher in reading and 20 percent higher in math in rooms with the most natural light.
And there are economic considerations as well. Whether as a study area, playroom, home office, or extra bedroom, a finished bonus room may be the highest value, yet lowest cost per square foot option you can choose, says Joe Patrick, product manager for skylight manufacturer VELUX America.
Patrick says that converting upstairs areas with energy-efficient skylights and roof windows makes expensive dormer windows unnecessary.
Labor and material costs can be reduced, he says, and finished attics and bonus rooms typically appraise at 100 percent of the value of other living space, while basements typically do not.
Denver-based Architect Doug Walter, AIA, observes that many property owners dismiss the idea of a conversion on the grounds that the space available seems too small.
In their search for suitable areas, particularly for children, Walter says, they should reconsider. Children don t require large areas with soaring ceilings. On the contrary, the sloping ceilings of small attics and the little hideaways they make are particularly appealing to youngsters.
Patrick points out that another reason to consider skylights is that they admit 30 percent more light than vertical windows in dormers, and provide the drama of a sky view that you can t achieve with vertical windows.
And skylights, which can be fitted with interior blinds and shades or exterior awnings, offer much more privacy than vertical windows, he says. There are also skylights available with electrochromic glass that can be tinted electronically by remote control to control light and heat gain while still allowing the view to the sky, Patrick points out.
For government information on window and skylight energy efficiency visit www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit www.nfrc.org or www.efficientwindows.org.