The atrium

The atrium has become an almost universal feature of commercial buildings. Occasionally the incorporation of an atrium can transform existing buildings, as in the case of the city campus of Sheffield Hallam University (Figure 14.2). There is no doubt that much of the appeal of atria lies in their aesthetic attributes. However, they have a practical justification by creating opportunities for introducing natural light and ventilation often deep into a building.

The shape and form of the atrium also has an important effect on the availability of natural lighting in the spaces adjacent to the atrium. There are several factors to consider.

• The structure of the atrium roof can reduce its transparency by between 20 and 50 per cent. This is an important factor if the ground level is meant to be predominantly naturally lit.

• The offices enclosing the atrium will benefit from a measure of natural light as well as external views. Access to natural light will be improved significantly if the sides of the atrium are stepped outwards.

The surface finish in respect of colour and reflectance of the atrium walls will influence the level of daylight reaching the lower floors.

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