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Older Factory Designs

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Older Factory Designs

Old 27th Jan 2021, 11:04
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Older Factory Designs

I've been watching various documentaries over the last few weeks and in old footage that takes in cities and/or industrial areas, I've seen lots of factories with a sawtooth pattern design roofing (pattern best viewed from the side view). They were everywhere up until the 90's and in time have been demolished and new square/rectangular building constructed (or assembled!) in their place.

Some years back I seemed to be often in such factories and always felt that it was an unpractical design as it lost space that could have been used more profitably bearing in mind land costs. Much of the time the slanting part of the sawtooth was safety glass which allowed natural light in, but sometimes not. I've seen examples going back to the early 1900's. There must have been a practical reason for this much used design. I had thought sunlight, but as it wouldn't always have been possible or practical to build factories facing south to garner as much light as possible during the daytime.

It was used in light industrial, heavy industrial, clothing, fabric, shoe, and chemical factories and seemed to supersede the brown brickwork factory buildings of the 1800's, many of which can still be seen in the north of England centres of the industrial revolution.

So, does anyone know why this design came about and why it was discontinued a couple of decades back ?
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 11:11
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Originally Posted by SpringHeeledJack View Post
I've been watching various documentaries over the last few weeks and in old footage that takes in cities and/or industrial area, I've seen lots of factories with a sawtooth pattern design roofing (pattern best viewed from the side view. They were everywhere up until the 90's and in time have been demolished and new square/rectangular building constructed (or assembled!) in their place. Some years back I seemed to be often in such factories and always felt that it was an unpractical design as it lost space that could have been used more profitably bearing in mind land costs. Much of the time the slanting part of the sawtooth was safety glass which allowed natural light in, but sometimes not. I've seen examples going back to the early 1900's. There must have been a practical reason for this much used design. I had thought sunlight, but as it wouldn't always have been possible or practical to build factories facing south to garner as much light as possible during the daytime.

So, does anyone know why this design came about and why it was discontinued a couple of decades back ?
The model shop at the lab where I worked in the 1980s (really a sort of toolmakers machine shop) had a roof like that. The design was intended to provide better natural lighting I believe. I think the reason that buildings like this changed to steel portal frames, with large, shallow pitched roofs, was down to cost plus the advent of cheaper and more reliable lighting. The electric lights in that workshop were large, round things, that gave off a distinctly yellow light, a bit like street lights. The roof always seemed to need maintenance, too, with leaves and moss tending to collect and block in the valleys.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 11:27
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I would suggest that it was a solution to the lack of artificial light available in Victorian times.
With modern industrial buildings the use of high intensity lighting negates the need for daylight.

Apologies if I'm stating the obvious.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 12:04
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Wiki is your friend....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saw-tooth_roof

British engineer and architect William Fairbairn is sometimes credited with the first designs for what he termed the shed principle possibly as early as 1827.......
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 13:28
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Also known as a Northlight roof (in the Northern Hemisphere)
https://www.encyclopedia.com/educati...es/north-light
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_light_(architecture)
the idea is that you get diffuse light, avoiding sharp shadows and solar gain
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 15:42
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PBW has it right (second link does not help much) and I expect Northlight roofs are still used but they are really only useful for single-storey buildings. As is pointed out by hifly, artificial light is cheap and effective these days and works for all floors of a multi-storey factory.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 16:17
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One thing I remember about our our model shop, with one of these roofs, is that it made a heck of a row whenever the wind was a bit strong. Not the most aerodynamic of shapes, one pretty much guaranteed to create lots of turbulence, perhaps. Combined with a structure that looked to be mainly bolted together angle iron, and the noise was made worse by rattling of the structure itself.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 18:14
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They are known as North lights in the UK and indeed elsewhere. You still see them being used on new buildings (not uncommon in new schools), but with aluminium window or curtain walling and double glazing and normally only on one or two floored buildings. The ones which were commonly used before, where cast iron, with often Georgian Wired Plate Glass with timber or asbestos and felt forming the other side.

Cheers
Mr Mac

Last edited by Mr Mac; 28th Jan 2021 at 18:09.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 20:38
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There is an old one in my town. it was used by the weavers as the light was uniform with no shadows caused by the moving sun. Some are due to be pulled down but the oldest one (which is the oldest in East Anglia I believe) will be preserved as a museum. Very interesting with the old cast iron pillars every few yards.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 21:05
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My grandfathers second unit of his toolmaking company had such a roof. Better that the other bay that was horrible.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 21:13
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Just had a look on Google maps and what used to be our model shop seems to be still standing, with it's original roof still, it seems: https://www.google.com/maps/@50.0763...!3m1!1e3?hl=en
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Old 28th Jan 2021, 01:12
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interesting that sawtooth roofs are making a comeback in buildings, especially residential, for natural light and ventilation
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