Glass Structure Placement Guide

by | Jul 16, 2018 | Planning

As regional leaders in custom glass construction, we occasionally encounter questions like “where is the best spot on my property to build a greenhouse?” or “where should I build a sunroom?” in the course of doing business. It is crucial to pick the best location when introducing a glass structural element to your property. But “best” is relative, and the optimal placement will usually be determined by your intended use of the glass enclosure or roof element. The best location for a skylight depends on where you want the sun to shine!

The Sunspace Design construction team has experience building New England glass enclosures and skylights of all kinds, so it will be crucial during the planning phase to inform us of your goals. Our time-tested design-build construction process will ensure that you have ample opportunity to provide feedback and insight during the planning phase.

But if you’re in the early stages of conceptualizing your intended home renovation or addition, it will be useful to plan ahead. We’ve been assembling a series of articles in the planning subcategory of our blog to help, and we invite you to check them out. Of particular interest is our glass structure planning guide. Today we’ll be discussing another key aspect of glass structure and glass roof planning: placement.


Sunlight, Direction, and Timing

The amount of sunlight your skylight, glass roof, conservatory, or greenhouse will receive is partially dictated by its location on your property. The rise and fall of the sun will also play a role, with east-facing structures receiving more sunlight during the morning and less at night. Because glass structures and skylights also serve as passive solar heat sources for the home, you can expect your decision to have an impact on the interior climate.

In the early days of planning it’s useful to think about the intended use of your new space. If you’re simply trying to introduce more light to a preexisting living area via the introduction of a skylight or roof lantern, then the architecture of the space is likely to be the primary factor constraining the construction cost. But if you’re increasing the footprint of your home via an addition or reshaping the footprint of your home via a renovation, you may have more flexibility with respect to placement. In these cases, it’s more important to understand exactly how much sunlight the space will receive before committing to a location.


A photo of a Sunspace Design orangery-style double hip skylight element located beside an open concept kitchen than connects to a large entertainment area

Interested in adding a glass roof element or glass skylight to a specific room in your home?
The existing architecture of your home will help determine the best position!
This gorgeous orangery-style double hip skylight transformed the client’s open concept kitchen.

Greenhouse Placement and Growing Considerations

Lower light levels will result in slower photosynthesis and lower yields. Is your intention to maximize your growing season by positioning your greenhouse to receive optimal levels of sunlight throughout the year? If so, then the ridged glass roof of your greenhouse should run from west to east. This will help optimize the amount of sunlight the interior receives during the darker autumn and winter seasons. But if your planned greenhouse is a lean-to you should consider having it face south with a northern wall.

Whatever your limitations might be, your greenhouse should be positioned to maximize the solar radiation your plants receive during the specific growing period you wish to target. Greenhouses intended for operation specifically in the spring and summer months will have different optimal placements than greenhouses intended for year-round growth.


Avoid Obstructions Around Your Glass Structure

Surrounding obstructions will have an influence on the light levels your new space receives, and this can be good or bad depending on your goals. Are your goals horticultural? Then it’s unlikely that you’ll want it to be located beneath tall, light-blocking trees of any sort. But if your space is going to be used for rest and relaxation then some degree of sunlight occlusion may be beneficial. Strategically placed trees located nearby can offer the right degree of shade to even the most fully exposed structures and additions. Just keep in mind that you’ll want to avoid building a structure or placing a glass roof directly beneath a tree. Doing so will result in glass that gets dirtier faster as a result of falling leaves or pine needles.


Potted plants sit on a workshelf located inside a multi-room Sunspace Design custom glass structure

The best location for your greenhouse will be determined by your goals.
Desired light levels and optimal growing season must be considered at the outset.

How You Heat Your Glass Structure Matters

If your goal is to introduce a four-season conservatory, orangery, sunroom or other custom structure to your property, the levels of sunlight it receives will influence its warmth. This is especially important in the winter. New England temperatures are frequently sub-freezing for a large portion of the year, and that’s an argument for maximizing solar levels! But if you have to place a structure in a location that receives less sun due to personal preference, existing architecture, or the land itself, you can offset the chill by installing a heating solution like a wood burning stove or fireplace. Other options include extending your existing heating system into the new space or split system heat pumps which provide both air conditioning and heating. Our company has years of experience regulating the thermal performance of the glass structures we design and build, so rest assured that you’ll be in good hands.


Microclimate, Slope, Stability, and Drainage Considerations

You probably learned when you were young that hot air rises and cold air sinks. This has implications for glass structure placement! The bottom of a slope is going to retain frost and humidity for a longer period of time than higher ground will. If the slope is particularly severe you may also face accumulating surface water, persistent dampness, and poor drainage. Whether or not this matters will depend on your structure’s foundation type; greenhouses without foundations will be particularly vulnerable. It’s generally best to build your structure on solid, level ground that is unlikely to shift, but our team can work around almost any limitation via proper planning.



At the end of the day our company can surmount virtually any hurdle standing between you and the realization of your glass construction dreams. We hope that this guide will provide you with some insight as you work through the earliest stages of conceptualizing your glass construction project. Once you’ve formulated a general idea of what you’d like to accomplish, reach out to us via our company email at, by calling us at 1-800-530-2505, or by submitting your information through our online contact form. A Sunspace representative will get back to you shortly, and before you know it we’ll be hard at work letting the beauty of nature’s sunlight into the space you call home.


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