Windows are normally placed low on walls so that their views can be seen when you are standing and sitting. After all, windows are just for looking out of… right? While this is true, another primary function of windows is to allow light into rooms. Clerestory windows, used in conjunction with normal windows or by themselves in certain situations, are a good way of bringing in more daylight. Clerestories are windows above eye level, high on walls, which were originally used in ancient religious architecture like basilicas and cathedrals. Bringing them into your home is yet another instance of incorporating good, green ideas from the past! As these windows are easily shaded by roof overhangs or trees, clerestory windows can increase daylight without increasing heat gain and energy loads. These windows should be placed carefully—the north walls of your home are the best place for clerestories as there they allow in light without the chance of direct sun (and heat gain). If shaded properly during the summer, south walls are also a prime spot for clerestories.
If operable, clerestories can help with natural ventilation. Cool breezes enter from windows lower down on the wall, move through a room, and push hot air out of the clerestories. This is a passive way of removing heat that would otherwise have to cycle through your air conditioning systems.
Overall, increased daylight brought in with clerestories can increase your happiness and physical health, while decreasing your energy use. More natural daylight means less electric light is needed during the day! Its a green building idea worth considering for your home.