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Translucent Wall and Ceiling Panels

Materials that permit diffuse natural light into the home

Translucent wall panels look like windows from the outside, but it is a light diffusing system with insulating and wind-resistant properties.

Studies have shown that people working under natural light (daylighting) are more productive and happier in their work environment. Therefore, many commercial buildings and schools have incorporated daylighting into the building design. Translucent wall and ceiling panels make it possible to create structural walls and skylights that permit diffuse natural light to enter the home.

Contemporary materials allow for interesting designs that defy traditional construction methods. The commercial construction industry has embraced translucent materials to provide natural daylight to interior spaces, a favorable interior environment, and reduced artificial lighting needs without compromising privacy and security. Translucent panels typically have higher R-values than traditional windows and skylights, but lower R-values than conventionally constructed walls and roofs.


Commercially-available translucent wall and ceiling panels cost more than residential window units. The additional first cost may be offset by better thermal performance over the life of a home.

Energy Efficiency

Translucent wall panels can reduce the need for electrical lighting during the daytime and can provide higher thermal resistance than many windows and skylights, but not walls and roofs.

Quality and Durability

Polycarbonate materials have imbedded materials for UV resistance and are resistant to impact. Fiberglass materials last longer than acrylics, with an up to 25 year life expectancy. Glass block warranties vary by manufacturer.

Kind of difficult

Translucent panels and glass blocks are relatively new for residential use and costs vary widely by manufacturer and degree of customization. Architectural units can cost $50 or more per square foot, whereas individual glass blocks can cost as little as $6.75 per square foot.

Not Applicable

Most systems may be used in a window or skylight capacity, to meet the requirements of the International Residential Code (IRC).

Not Applicable

Manufacturer's installation methods vary. Translucent wall and ceiling panels are generally prefabricated and mounted in framework that is fastened to structural members. Panels can be structural or non-structural.

Manufacturer's warranties vary. A 10-year limited warranty is typical for the polycarbonate materials. Warranties up to 25 years are available.

Translucent panels permit diffuse daylightling without the glare and solar heat gain associated with conventional windows and skylights. Certain materials are highly impact-resistant as well. Thermal performance of translucent panels can be better than traditional windows or skylights, but most units cannot yet compare to the thermal performance of conventional wall\s and roof systems.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.