A Clerestory Takes Your Home to the Next Level of Comfort

Designing a new home brings lots of possibilities that you don’t always have when renovating an older home instead. For modern Midwestern homeowners, this situation includes the chance to add energy-reducing features that will lower bills and contribute to a comfortable home for years to come.

One method of making your house more energy conscious rarely gets much attention. The clerestory, though, can add beauty and keep the home more comfortable. What is a clerestory, and how can you incorporate it into your design? Here’s a short guide.

What a Clerestory Is

A clerestory (generally pronounced “clear-story”) is a row of windows placed high above eye level and often just under the ceiling or roof line. Clerestories have been a part of the architecture of large buildings for centuries, and are often used to bring in extra light into huge churches. As the mid-century modern home style movement grew, architects saw the value of clerestories for homes as well.

Clerestory windows can be continuous along one or more walls, or they may consist of fewer windows placed strategically. They can be large or narrow and either open or remain stationary. The design is up to you.


How a Clerestory Adds Beauty

Clerestory windows, like most windows, provide good views of the surrounding landscape or neighborhood. Because they’re so much higher than average windows, though, users get a more unique viewpoint.

You’re likely have a good view of the stars at night, a surrounding cityscape, or even the home’s own architecture. The result is added privacy, particularly in urban settings, without sacrificing style and sunlight. And moving the windows farther up the wall frees up space to decorate without interruption.


How a Clerestory Adds Light

Many architects who do add clerestories to private homes do so to help light up potentially dark areas. Staircases and corridors often end up dark and dreary — needing more artificial lighting and heating. Alternatively, adding huge wall windows could make the space into an energy hog. Clerestory windows high above solve both problems while saving energy.

The sunlight that comes in through a clerestory window isn’t harsh and direct like most windows. Because it enters from the side and is reflected higher on the walls, it’s more of an ambient light source that spreads out over a larger space. Add light-colored walls, mirrors, and other decorative tricks, and that reflected light becomes even larger. You’ll need less artificial lighting throughout the year.


How a Clerestory Adds Climate Control

Higher windows can save energy on your heating and cooling bills in two different ways.

First, clerestories are generally paired with higher ceilings, so they provide extra height for hot air to rise away from the family below. Second, the clerestory windows themselves allow sunlight to reach and warm up back areas that wouldn’t normally receive natural heating.

Opt for windows that open, and the added circulation helps keep the room nice and comfortable inside all year long.

If you pair clerestory windows with what’s known as a thermal mass, you create free passive solar heating. A thermal mass is generally a wall or floor made from materials that absorb heat and release it slower. It provides cooler ambient temperatures in the morning while warming up the air in the evening.

Dark-colored concrete, blocks, tiles, brick, and stone all make excellent thermal mass materials. Light from clerestory windows shines on the thermal mass, which stores the heat for timed release.

Clerestory windows have many benefits. They add light and warmth while providing a beautiful architectural feature that gives any home more style and modern vibes. Learn more about clerestory window design with a consultation from the window experts at Arch Design today.

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