Creating Well Ventilated Spaces with a Retractable Glass Roof

Ventilation has been the buzzword for the last few years. Creating healthy spaces for people to work, live in and use has always been an essential part of architecture but has become even more prolific in recent years.  

When it comes to architecture, ventilation is the method of bringing air in from outside and distributing it throughout the space. For buildings in the UK, Building Regulations Approved Document F details the minimum requirement for ventilation in buildings, and a retractable glass roof is an excellent way to achieve this.  

The key parts of a ventilation design must ensure that you:  

roof glazing including a structural glass roof and glass walls with sliding doors

  1. Extract water vapour and indoor air pollutants before they spread through the building 
  2. Supply a minimum level of outdoor air for occupants’ health.  
  3. Dilute indoor air pollutants and disperse water vapour  

(Building Regulations Approved Document F – Volume 2: Buildings other than dwellings, page 5)  

All of the above has to be achieved whilst also ensuring that the ventilation method:  

  1. Produces low levels of noise 
  2. Is easy to maintain and access 
  3. Provides protection from rain 
  4. Provides protection from cold draughts  
  5. Does not significantly risk occupants’ health  

The ventilation method most suitable for a building or space will depend on the use of the space. However, when it comes to communal areas – spaces where various groups of people come together – then a retractable glass roof is a great way of providing ventilation in a way that is in keeping with the architecture and use of the space.  

Architecture has become a lot more environmentally aware, opting for more passive solutions to ventilation to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint. This awareness has meant automated HVAC systems are less desirable, replacing them with wind, a natural, free, renewable, and healthy natural resource that is sufficiently able to improve the air quality of spaces. 

Below are details of the various types of retractable glass roofs and how they could be used to provide ventilation to a communal area.   


Retractable Glass Roofs for Restaurants  

Spaces where lots of people come together to eat, such as restaurants, will require a high level of ventilation space to ensure adequate air quality.  

The best retractable roof will depend on the overall design, location and use of the space.  

automated sliding glass roof over hotel restaurant for natural light and ventilation

The project shown to the left is Gravetye Manor – a Grade I Listed building that now acts as a hotel with a Michelin-star restaurant. The flat-roofed extension slots in between two wings of the listed manor house with large glass elevations are designed to minimise the visual impact of the addition to the listed building design.  

Within the flat roof a large, automated retracting rooflight provides ventilation at the centre of the room. The sliding retracting rooflight used here was the M.A.R.S. sliding glass roof 

Whereas a restaurant we worked on in Hegelo, Netherlands had external seating areas that they wanted to bring into the interior of the space. Being in the historic centre of the city a full renovation was not possible.  

IQ designed and installed a retractable glass roof system to create the entire glass roof to the outdoor eating areas that surround the corner located restaurant. The retracting roof is fully thermally broken with double glazed units within the framing for high levels of insulation.  

When closed, this type of roof creates an ‘outdoor’ seating area that has all the benefits of being inside – including a comfortable temperature and protection from the elements. When open, the glass roof fully retracts, opening the seating area to the outside.  


Retractable Glass Roofs for Hotels 

glazed restaurant extension with retractable glass roof

Hotels are another building where people from different locations will congregate.  

Today’s travellers place a greater value on a sense of place and community than the traditional amenities of a luxury hotel. This is why many hotels are now incorporating communal areas within the hotel design. These are spaces where occupants can sit and relax away from the confines of their room.  

Retracting glass roofs have been shown to be a valuable addition to these communal areas, providing occupants with a bright internal space full of natural light which can also be opened up, connecting to the outdoors.  

Hotel Mom’Art in Paris underwent a modernising renovation and included a retractable glass roof to its rooftop terrace for this reason.  

This outdoor area can now be used throughout the year thanks to the insulated glass roof. In nicer weather the glass roof retracts, ensuring a highly ventilated communal area where the occupants of the hotel can gather.  


Retractable Glass Roofs for Communal Areas  structural glass cieling

Any communal area can benefit from a retractable glass roof. By opening the roof you create a highly ventilated space that is akin to being outside. Fresh air can circulate the space below ensuring a well-ventilated space for the occupants.  

Architectural design is focusing on community, bringing people together as well as creating spaces that are healthy and well ventilated. Retractable glass roofs are a great inclusion to these spaces to ensure they are useable throughout the year, ensuring high levels of natural light, protect against the elements when needed but can fully open for airflow and ventilation.  



If you are working on a project that might benefit from a retractable glass roof, contact the team at IQ Projects who will be able to work with you to incorporate this into your design.  



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Rebecca is Head of Marketing at the IQ Group and has worked in glazing specification for many years. She has a broad range of technical knowledge about all our glazing products and offers technical advice and guidance to architects for specification. Her easy to digest technical advice is often quoted in magazines and publications. You might also recognise her as one of the IQ Glass CPD presenters.