SunPipes ... piped light from the rooftops

Since their introduction in the UAE in December 1999, more than 500 Monodraught SunPipes have now been installed in a wide variety of applications to 'light up' interior environments across the Gulf, says the UK company.

"With thousands more specified for some of the UAE and the region's most prestigious commercial and residential projects, the Sun-Pipes have become widely accepted as a recognised alternative to conventional skylights and rooflights," a company spokesman says. "In addition to being an energy-saving replacement to electrical lighting during daylight hours in schools, offices, retail environments and villas, they also can reduce the need for extensive air conditioning by reducing solar gain."

The design flexibility, privacy and security afforded by the SunPipes means that they can be used in areas where windows or skylights would not normally be considered. Bathrooms and dressing rooms are a particular case in point, where not only is maximum privacy necessary but the addition of natural daylight to such areas is considered a great benefit, the spokesman says.

Recent innovative design developments can now provide further options for end-users and specifiers of the system. These include coloured ceiling trims to match with any interior decor, fireproof light diffusers, motorised 'black out' dampers, which 'switch off' or adjust the light if and when it is required.

"The new diamond-shaped top dome to the SunPipe is not only visually stunning and highly attractive for sloping roofs, but its revolutionary design increases the system's already impressive light output, particularly during early dawn and pre dusk times, when the sun is at a low angle in the sky," the spokesman says.

'Customer feedback and project specification in the Middle East has been very encouraging,'" says Justin Carter of Edison Lighting (Middle East), which has promoted and designed the layout and specification requirements of the systems in the region for the last two years. 'We have had a considerable number of repeat orders from clients who have used SunPipes for one project and then can't wait to use more of them for another!'

He continues: "In a part of the world where people tend to shy away from natural light by drawing blinds and closing curtains, to escape solar heat gain and glare, the SunPipe has proved to provide the perfect solution to daylighting needs as it provides diffused light without the unwanted side-effects of heat gain or glare.'

Now available in 10 different sizes ranging from 200-mm diameter to 1,500 mm diameter, SunPipes can be fitted to any roof type and the silverised mirror finish aluminium pipework, reflects and intensifies daylight deep into interior spaces. SunPipes can even be up to 25 m in length, making them suitable for multistorey applications. Horizontal runs and adjustable bends can also be used to circumvent roof void obstructions with little effect on the amount of light provided.

"The SunPipe system is proving its durability in the harsh Middle East climate, with the UV-protected, high-impact top domes standing up to the sun and sand abrasion," says Carter.

"As with all rooflights and skylights in Dubai and the UAE, the skylights need to be washed at regular intervals to maintain the external lens in a clear condition. The domes are specially designed to prevent any crevices or areas where dust can lodged and so, superficial maintenance and cleaning is relatively easy. However, on some buildings in Dubai, where the early SunPipes were installed more than two years ago, the difficulty in accessing the roof has meant that they have not been cleaned in more than two years and although covered with a thick layer of sand and dust, the performance of the SunPipes internally is still considered by the occupants as extremely good. Therefore, gaining the system yet another advantage over conventional skylights, which require regular cleaning."

SunPipes are also able to offer a high level of security, since not only is the 300-mm diameter SunPipe, which is the most popular size for most private dwellings and offices, very small and, therefore, difficult to permit entry into the building, but polished stainless steel bars can also be easily incorporated into the tubular SunPipe body, so as to provide a high level of security without reducing sunlight transmittance.

"It is for this reason that many SunPipes have been specified on military establishments, as well as police stations, schools and other secure buildings," says Carter.

A 300-mm diameter SunPipe will light up an area of up to 20 sq m to a normal daylight level and a 300-mm diameter SunPipe can provide up to 12 times more light than a conventional window of the same area. Since SunPipes are generally sited at ceiling level, however, with a semi-recessed ceiling diffuser, the glare that would normally be associated with conventional windows is eliminated, providing pleasant working or living conditions.

Carter continues: "Most residents of the UAE would agree that working and living under diffuse natural daylight is far more restful than working under fluorescent light or any other type of electric lighting. Many medical conditions of headaches and similar ailments are often attributed to the condition of working under artificial light for long periods. In schools where SunPipes have been used extensively in Dubai, the teachers are the first to recognise that the pupils are more relaxed and with better powers of concentration under the diffused natural light from SunPipe systems. Indeed, in some schools, teachers actually moved their own desks directly under one of the systems, to benefit directly from the natural light!

"Apart from using no energy whatsoever, the SunPipes require little maintenance since the top dome is easily cleaned and the internal mirror finish is fitted with a ceiling diffuser, which effectively seals the pipe against the ingress of dust, which means that the SunPipe system needs no maintenance internally."