Celebrating Solatube’s 30th anniversary: 1991 – 2021
30 Years of Lighting up the World
Since 1991, an Australian invention by an Aussie business has become the choice of millions of people around the world wanting an affordable way to bring natural light into dark spaces where natural light had rarely been an option. Still proudly Australian owned and now with a global footprint, the award-winning ‘tubular skylight’ technology created by Solatube has revolutionised the way daylight is brought into a building. The millions of installations around the world are testament to this: from residential to commercial, retail outlets to major sporting stadiums – even an ancient temple in Egypt!
1991: It was the year the Internet became available for unrestricted commercial use; the first web browser was introduced; the airbag was invented; and the iconic movie Point Break hit our cinema screens. It was also the year that iconic Aussie TV show Beyond 2000 showcased a new system created by a young Australian inventor: the ‘tubular skylight’, an innovation that harnessed the power of the sun to control daylight. And so Solatube was born.
The first Solatube Daylighting System was installed in a modest suburban home in Sydney’s Castle Hill. And while the home’s owners marvelled at how one compact skylight instantly improved the look and feel of their home, they could never have imagined they would be the first of what is now millions of installations around the world.
From these humble beginnings, Solatube’s high-performance daylighting systems – which use advanced optics to significantly improve the way daylight is harnessed – have been installed into buildings and structures around the globe, from residential homes, commercial and retail spaces, to aquatic centres and major sporting stadiums.
And that’s not all.
Solatube’s Daylighting Systems have also been installed in myriad iconic and special-purpose structures including an ancient temple in Egypt, a Beijing Olympics stadium, buildings in the Arctic Circle, American-based storm shelters, into boats, and at the Miami Science Museum. They are also the solution of choice for a vast range of innovative applications including for an ag-biotech firm to grow algae for personal care and nutritional products; by a US cannabis cultivation firm; to provide daylighting for fish tanks and create a healthier aquatic environment – and they have even been incorporated into vegetated green roofs to effectively ‘daylight’ buildings.
The compact design and first-of-its-kind tubing of the Solatube system manoeuvres around obstacles, making it the daylighting solution for any building. Solatube’s designers regularly come up with solutions for design challenges such as the one the Oaks hotel in Cairns, Far North Queensland, bringing natural light into the hotel’s internal rooms (which had no windows to the outside), using special lighting ducts – with a 17m length of tube running from the hotel’s roof dome – and false windows.
“Customers are always amazed at how this compact product can light up a space better than traditional skylights many times its size,” says Solatube’s General Manager Brett Dickson. “And its ability to spread natural light throughout a room is unparalleled. Some models can transfer light further than 30 metres, a feat no other skylight product on the market today can achieve. Not surprisingly, when it was first launched it was nicknamed the ‘light catcher’.”
From little things, big things glow
Propelled by Solatube’s early success in Australia, it established an office in Southern California in 1992 to sell its unique tubular daylighting device (TDD) into homes across America.
By 2000, Solatube had expanded into the commercial market to provide daylighting solutions for schools, hotels, retail stores, restaurants and cafes, manufacturing facilities, sporting facilities, hospitals, and offices. Businesses that rely on natural light and seeing true colours are also turning to Solatube – for example, fashion and homeware designers, art galleries and makeup studios. And the added benefit is that the daylighting solutions don’t transfer harmful UV rays to the occupants or contents of the interior spaces.
Innovation is essential to Solatube’s success and over the years it has continued create new designs and introduce technical advances. For example, adding optical technology throughout the system to capture more sunlight on the roof, transfer more sunlight through the tubing and effectively diffuse the light in the building interior, in addition to introducing daylight dimming, lighting and ventilation devices.
Along the way Solatube has won a swag of awards and industry accolades including a prestigious Australian Design Award in 2016, the Most Innovative New Product at the 2014 CONNECT MIP Awards, the Gold Award at the 2020 Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards, and a 2016 Build It Award.
How Solatube is light years ahead of the rest
The Solatube-developed and patented technology specifically focuses on removing infrared rays (heat) that enters the skylight. While 99.97% of the visual light is reflected down the tube, infrared rays are absorbed out of the tube before they can transfer through to the interior. This reduces the need for running air conditioning and fans on hot days, unlike other skylight products.
“Australians pay the highest electricity prices in the world. By harnessing natural light, it can make a huge difference to our electricity bills, every year,” explains Brett. “That’s why we call our Brighten Up series Daylighting System Australia’s ‘coolest’ skylight, while still providing the most natural light.”
And while interior styles and architecture have changed over the past 30 years, Solatube’s desire for creating comfortable, healthy homes while reducing energy bills and the impact on the environment hasn’t.
“Customers over time have always liked that Solatube is affordable, easy to install, and instantly transforms interiors into fresh, light-filled and inviting spaces without making a sound,” says Brett. “They want a healthier life and a healthier planet, and Solatube can help achieve this by bringing the benefits of natural daylight indoors and reduce their energy bills and their carbon footprint.”
In fact, each year, over 137 million pounds – 62 million kilograms – in carbon emissions are saved through the use of Solatube’s Daylighting Systems. That equates to taking 11,430 cars off the road for a full year, or the equivalent of eliminating all carbon emissions for the entire country of Kuwait for two full days.
And what does the future hold? Solatube is already working on patented technology that further increases the light performance of its tubular daylighting products.
As well as helping to provide ‘green’ buildings, optimal daylight:
- can improve our health and our mood by helping to maintain our circadian rhythms, which enables us to sleep better. Adequate exposure to daylight can also reduce myopia (short sightedness) in children and improve their social behaviour and ability to learn. It also improves health by arresting the growth of harmful moulds and mildew in our homes and workspaces. And indoor plants and pets benefit and thrive when plenty of natural light is available indoors.
- is better for business: Natural light can increase productivity and sales. Workspaces lit with natural light have reported their workers have better morale and experience less stress and fewer illnesses, and some retail stores have reported improved sales from naturally lit displays.
- creates true colour: Light enables us to see colour, and colours need optimal natural light to reveal the entire scope of hues.
Today, Solatube is still proudly Australian owned and operated by the original owners. And while Solatube’s design has remained tubular, compact and discrete, the range has expanded to include a variety of highly effective daylighting solutions, all invented in-house.
We thank all our dealers, distributors, office support teams, homeowners, architects, designers, builders, and everyone who has chosen a Solatube daylighting solution and embraced our new technologies. We feel privileged to be part of your new buildings, renovations and improvements, large and small.
“Every invention has small beginnings but not every invention becomes a worldwide success story.”
Brett Dickson, General Manager, Solatube
“Solatube is a really good product to use, especially in the educational sector. Given that the length of corridors between classrooms can be quite substantial, the Solatube is ideal for getting natural light into these circulation areas, or indeed any area that’s hard to reach with a normal window.”
“We used Solatubes in isolated internal areas with no external access. We also used them to boost light near the canteen. It was all about making these spaces more enjoyable to live in and learn in.”
Quinn O’Hanlon Architects
“Solatube is ideal for use in educational spaces. [In one childcare centre] was a ground floor activity room that didn’t have an external wall, so it couldn’t have a window. As part of the solution, we installed a Solatube skylight that had to run through the roof through a duct and then feed into the activity room.”
Elevation Architecture Studio, Queensland
What our happy customers are saying about Solatube on Facebook
“This is an amazing product… we are 100% happy with the result.”
“Absolutely love them, best money spent.”
“We installed 5 of them and it’s AMAZING! Best part is that in summer, there’s not a bit of heat in those areas. That was money well spent!”
“These are fabulous. I have one in my bathroom which brings in so much light I constantly have people (including myself) trying to turn the light off during the day. Even picks up moonlight on clear nights. Fantastic!!!”
“Awesome, awesome, awesome, I love my skylight and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this product.”
“We just got one installed in our kitchen, wow what a difference it makes. Very happy with the product and service, getting another one installed in our living room.”
“Best decision I made, installing a Solatube skylight. No mess. No fuss and SO MUCH LIGHT! I will have one in every house I own moving forward!”
“We had a Solatube put into our kitchen, including the solar-powered dimmer… The transformation was amazing, wish we’d done it sooner! Highly recommend this system and the team behind it.”
“Had mine installed yesterday. Absolutely amazing. Perfect light – no heat. Everything about these guys from the quote through to the install and then the payment was painless (even handing the money over). I woke up this morning as the sun came up and the unit lit up the room like a light was turned on. Would not hesitate recommending these guys to anyone.”