How to bring sunshine to a shady courtyard? Testimony of Beatrice and Romain in Lisbon

Beatrice and Romain live on the first floor of a 1900’s building in Lisbon. They want to transform the interior courtyard into a flower garden. The main obstacle is the lack of light. The inner courtyard is in the shadow of the 6 floors of the building. In this article, discover how they brought the sun down into the inner courtyard using Espaciel reflectors.

Sunny street near the inner courtyard in the shade
Street view of the building where Beatrice and Romain live in Lisbon – Espaciel photo

Project sheet :

  • Project: Bring sunshine to an inner courtyard in the shade
  • Location : Lisbon (Portugal)
  • Client : Beatrice and Romain
  • Espaciel model installed : Solar Patio Reflector

An interior courtyard in the shade despite the abundant sun

In Lisbon, buildings are often organized around an interior courtyard located in the center of the building. Throughout the height of the building, a vertical shaft provides all floors with daylight and natural ventilation. Tempered air circulates from the first floor and natural light descends from the roof.

Interior courtyard in the shade in a well of light
The hygienist turn of the 1900’s generalized the interior courtyard to bring natural light and fresh air in the dwellings – Espaciel photo

This type of building with a square courtyard is very common in Lisbon and in many southern cities. It is for example the case in Bayonne, Barcelona, Marseille and Toulon. The daylight shaft that delimits the interior courtyard is often topped by a glass roof that forms the top of the building.

The daylight that descends into the shaft is diffuse. It loses intensity at each level crossed from the roof. 5 floors below, on the first floor, there are only a few lux of natural lighting. This is not enough to green the inner courtyard in the shade.

Interior courtyard in the shade lit by Espaciel Patio solar reflectors
Espaciel reflectors bathe the interior courtyard in sunlight. A radical change for this space which was previously shaded – Espaciel photo

How can this be explained in a city like Lisbon, which enjoys 260 days of sunshine per year? The answer is geometric.

The dwellings that surround the inner courtyard on each floor form a vertical daylight well that points to the sky, an angle of 90°. The sun projects its rays at an angle of incidence between 0 and 60°. When the sun’s rays enter the daylight well, they meet its walls on the top floors of the building. The sun then bounces back in all directions and is transformed into diffuse light. This light is very attenuated compared to the sun’s rays and loses even more intensity as it descends into the heart of the building. This explains why the inner courtyard is shaded despite the abundant sunlight.

Creating a city garden in the inner courtyard in the shade is the final step in Beatrice and Romain’s renovation project. This private exterior exit, adjacent to the dining room and kitchen, plays an important role.

The Patio Reflector to bring the sun’s rays down into the courtyard in the shade

Beatrice found Espaciel on the Internet while researching how to improve the natural lighting in her apartment. She opted for 2 wall-mounted reflectors that she bought online on the Espaciel website. She placed them in front of each French window in the dining room. This solution makes the most of the diffused light available in the courtyard.

But the beautiful Lisbon sun remained perpetually hanging on the top of the daylight well. How to bring it down to the bottom of the daylight ? How can it be oriented towards the inner courtyard in the shade? And how to distribute it over the entire surface of the future city garden?

This problem of redirection, orientation and distribution of the sun to sun a shaded interior courtyard is the field of predilection of Espaciel with its Solar Patio Reflector. It is the most elaborate product in the Espaciel range. Its curved surface has an adjustable curve. Its inclination is also adjustable as well as its orientation. This allows a fine parameterization of the redirection of the sun towards the space to be illuminated. Another advantage, the Solar Patio Reflector can be fixed on a remote support in order to optimize its solar exposure and its orientation.

Effect of Espaciel patio reflectors on an interior shady courtyard
The curved surface of the Patio Reflector receives the sun’s rays and reflects them back down below in the form of a band of light. In this photo, three Patio Reflectors are active – Espaciel photo

Implementation of Solar Reflectors for the interior courtyard

After their first positive experience with Espaciel, Béatrice and Romain decided to fit out the dark interior courtyard with Solar Patio Reflectors. Beatrice contacted Espaciel for a personalized advice. The Espaciel team carried out a sunlight study of the interior courtyard according to its dimensions, geometry and orientation. Espaciel’s proposal is to install 5 Solar Patio Reflectors fixed above the roof on adjustable supports. Each reflector is oriented at a slightly different angle. This clever implementation allows the interior courtyard to be lit for several hours each sunny day.

Reflectors Patio at the top of a courtyard in the shade

The 5 Solar Patio Reflectors were installed by a Lisbon installer chosen by Beatrice and Romain. The installation took place from the roof. The installer had easy access from the attic of the building. The support kits for Patio Reflectors supplied by Espaciel proved to be very practical for mounting and adjusting the Patio Reflectors.

Installation of Espaciel solar patio reflectors for a shaded interior courtyard
The Patio Solaire reflectors being installed above the building’s inner courtyard – Espaciel photo

Results obtained in the inner courtyard in the shade

The solar effect is impressive in the interior courtyard, which literally goes from shadow to light. The light sweep provided by the slight angular shift of the reflectors ensures the presence of sunlight for several hours. With the adjustments made, each reflector illuminates the inner courtyard for 1 hour, which means that the system can be used for a total of 5 hours per day. This performance is all the more remarkable as the daylight well is more than 25 m high.

Effect of the Espaciel solar patio on a shaded courtyard

Beatrice and Romain are delighted to have been able to bring sunlight to the shaded interior courtyard. The sunlight transforms the shaded interior courtyard into a bright space suitable for decoration and plants.

The benefit of the installation is also felt in the apartment. The sun rays reflected by the Patio Reflectors bounce off the Wall Reflectors and enter the dining room. Beatrice particularly appreciates this solar contribution in the heart of her home.

Espaciel solar patio bringing sunlight on a shaded courtyard

The shaded interior courtyard is now bathed in sunlight

Even at a height of more than 25m, Espaciel’s Solar Patio Reflectors can bring sunshine to a shaded interior courtyard. This new daylighting technique revolutionizes the potential of outdoor spaces in the city. To learn more about it, discover our blog article:

Here is a TimeLapse video that allows you to visualize the effect of Solar Patio Reflectors in the interior courtyard.

The effect of the Solar Patio Reflectors from 12pm to 5pm, in pictures, with this 1 minute timelapse video

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