Typical of public buildings of its era, the older section of the MacLean District Hospital was not designed to optimise the use of natural light. Its wards and corridors were dark and gloomy and traditionally dependent on significant utility-powered lighting to maintain any semblance of brightness for patients and health services delivery staff.

MacLean District Hospital is a 43-bed community healthcare facility servicing a rapidly growing population in the Northern Rivers region of rural NSW. Hospital infrastructure consists of two main sections, including an older 1960s building as well as a recent extension that was completed in 2014.

According to Howard Watt, maintenance engineer at the hospital, initially, traditional skylights were seen as the best possible solution to introduce additional illumination to within the building as they would provide natural light that creates a positive ambience and harmony with external conditions.

However, after discussing this with their maintenance contractor, Shane Gabbert, another solution was proposed: solar- powered skylights.

“We were looking for a solution that would facilitate the provision of light into a particularly dark Level 2 ward,” Watt said.

“We found it was far easier and cheaper to install than what was on offer from traditional skylights. It also meant that we didn’t need to make any major penetrations of the external building fabric, which meant that there would therefore be no water leaks.

“It gave us great flexibility in where we could locate the light source and has subsequently proven to be very easy to maintain.”

In looking after numerous local public and private premises, Gabbert had previously installed a large number of the illume solar shaftless skylights and was impressed by the way they behaved like traditional skylights but without the need for a roof cavity to let the light in.

There is reduced heating/cooling costs and less maintenance as there is no heat transfer, leakages or build-up of dead and alive bugs as a result of the light shaft construction, all of which are important considerations in a subtropical climate such as MacLean.

MacLean Hospital agreed to trial a single illume solar-powered skylight in one of the wards to make sure there were no adverse issues, including assessing impact on the patients as some lighting types can have detrimental e ects on epileptic patients, for example.

With the trial proving to have been a complete success, a decision has now been made to install a further three illumes over the next month. Since solar-powered skylights do not need access to the roof, they can be installed anywhere in the building and on any floor, making them a perfect solution for an old three-storey hospital.