Preserving Heritage: How Conservation Rooflights Elevate Historic Buildings

Historic buildings stand as testaments to our cultural and architectural heritage. These structures embody the essence of bygone eras, telling stories of the past. Preserving their authenticity and charm is a delicate task, especially when modern needs come into play. This is where conservation rooflights step in, bridging the gap between tradition and contemporary living. In this article, we explore how conservation rooflights play a pivotal role in maintaining the essence of historic buildings while enhancing energy efficiency and natural lighting.

Preservation of Authenticity and Charm

Historic buildings hold a unique allure, with their intricate details, time-honoured craftsmanship, and distinctive architectural styles. The challenge arises when modern occupants require modern comforts without compromising the building’s character.

Conservation rooflights offer a harmonious solution. Stella bespoke rooflights are made from 316L stainless steel and offer a thin profile which sit flush within a roof line. This enables them to seamlessly integrate into the existing structure of a historic building, respecting its heritage and visual integrity. By choosing materials, colours, and designs that complement the building’s original features, Stella conservation rooflights maintain a building’s authentic charm, ensuring that any modifications remain unobtrusive.

Harmonising Modern Comfort with Tradition

One of the primary concerns when adapting historic buildings for contemporary use is ensuring that the occupants enjoy adequate natural light and comfort. Conservation rooflights are meticulously engineered to address this challenge. By strategically positioning these rooflights, they introduce an abundance of natural light into previously dim interior spaces. This enhances the overall ambience while maintaining the building’s historical character. Occupants can experience the charm of the past while revelling in the benefits of modern living.

Again, the thin slender profile offered by the 316L stainless steel construction provide the necessary strength to enable less frame and more glass. This glass to frame ratio is unrivalled by any other frame material and in turn allows much more natural daylight into a room – which is, after all, the primary purpose of a rooflight!

Enhancing Energy Efficiency

Historic buildings often suffer from energy inefficiency due to outdated insulation and lighting systems. Conservation rooflights can revolutionise the energy footprint of these structures. The infusion of natural light reduces the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours, thus decreasing energy consumption. Additionally, well-designed conservation rooflights can contribute to passive solar heating, optimising temperature control and reducing reliance on mechanical heating systems. This not only benefits the environment but also helps conserve the building itself, as stable temperature and humidity levels are crucial for preserving historical materials.

All Stella rooflights are manufactured using the highest performance modern high tech glazing units. They incorporate solar control and self cleaning glazing as standard, however, a wide variety of additional features for elements such as sound efficiency, fire safety or shading are available.

Stella rooflights are among the best on the market when it comes to thermal performance and can achieve a U-Value of between 1.1W/m2K – 1.6W/m2K, depending on the roof pitch in which they are installed.

Aesthetic Transformation Through Thoughtful Design

The installation of conservation rooflights is not merely a technical solution; it’s an artistic endeavour. Design professionals collaborate to ensure that every aspect of the rooflight aligns with the building’s architecture. From the choice of materials to the shape and size of the rooflight, each detail is carefully considered. This approach results in an aesthetic transformation that respects the past while adapting to the needs of the present.

This is where the bespoke nature of a Stella rooflight comes into its own as the rooflight can fit around the building, rather than trying to accommodate an off the shelf product around a historic building. As is often the case, trying to fit a bespoke product around 150 year old rafters just doesn’t work! The ability to change the shape, size, glazing bar configuration, etc is a must in many historic buildings.

Case study: Seamlessly Blending Tradition and Modernity

The best way to understand the impact of conservation rooflights is through a real-world example. In the restoration of the historic offices of Historic England in York.

37 Tanner Row is situated in the Micklegate Ward of York city centre. The impressive five-storey, end-of-terrace red brick building is Grade II Listed and lies within a Conservation Area and was originally built as a railway hotel in the 1850s. The property today serves as the modern offices of Historic England – the Government body that helps people care for and enjoy England’s historic environment.

Strict conservation requirements

As part of a programme of works, which included several fire safety improvements throughout the building, Stella was approached by specialist heritage surveyors, Smith & Garratt to design a bespoke conservation rooflight. The design of which would need to provide suitable ventilation for the building’s communal stairwell.

Aside from the design functionality, the rooflight would also need to satisfy strict Conservation requirements, as the building is deemed of significant historic and architectural interest. As all Stella rooflights incorporate slender steel frames, which sit flush within the roofline, they were the ideal choice for maintaining the heritage of the building.

The Stella team worked closely with Smith & Garratt and specialist contractors CG Building & Restoration Ltd on an innovative design that would meet the approval of Historic England and the Planning committee.

The 2185mm (w) x 2050mm (h) rooflight consisted of four casements, of which, the two centre side hung opening panes are electronically operated by two pairs of high performance chain actuators and designed to open out 90 degrees to provide the required ventilation. The two remaining side panes were of a fixed design and were at the same level as the opening casements; which was an important detail in satisfying the planning requirement.

As with all Stella rooflights the frame was manufactured using marine grade 316 stainless steel, with a C5 coastal powder coating to protect against rust and prolong the lifespan of the rooflight. A bespoke handmade hardwood liner provided a stunning internal finish. 

A high specification glazing consisted of a BioClean Natura Self-Clean and Solar Control outer pane with a black warm edge spacer (Argon Gas), and a Planitherm One Low E inner pane. 

These rooflights not only breathed new life into the interior spaces but also retained the essence of the original structure. The result was an elegant symbiosis between tradition and modernity, ensuring that the historical narrative of the building remained intact.


Conservation rooflights are more than architectural elements; they are bridges between history and contemporary living. Their ability to uphold authenticity, enhance natural lighting, and improve energy efficiency makes them indispensable for the restoration and adaptation of historic buildings. Through their thoughtful integration, conservation rooflights pay homage to our past while securing a brighter and more sustainable future. By embracing these innovations, we ensure that our cherished heritage continues to thrive for generations to come.


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