Creating a Solarium

Reference Number: KB-00454
Last Modified: July 16, 2015

The information in this article applies to:

Chief Architect Premier


I would like to design a solarium or conservatory.  How can I do this?


There are various approaches to designing a solarium, greenhouse, or sunroom.  Many residential sun rooms have skylights and large windows set into conventional roof planes and walls.  As this article explains, you can also create a solarium composed of glass walls and roof planes. This second style of solarium is often found in commercial settings as well as in homes.

To create glass walls

  1. Select Build> Wall> Define Wall Types  from the menu.

  2. In the Wall Type Definitions dialog, click the New button to create a new wall type. 


  • Give your new wall type a short, descriptive, unique name so that it easily identified later.

  • Specify the desired Thickness of your glass wall.

    For the purposes of this example, 1" is specified so that the wall preview diagram can be more easily seen. Your glass wall type will likely be thinner than this.

  • You may find it helpful to specify a line Weight that is less than the By Layer value.

    To do this, click on the exterior surface line of your wall's preview diagram, specify a Weight value, then click on the interior surface and specify a Weight value.

  • Click the Material option to browse the Materials library category and select a glass material for your walls.

  • Make any changes you would like to the Line Style or Fill Style, but bear in mind that your glass wall will be thin, so these changes may not be visible when you are zoomed out.

  • Click OK to close the dialog and apply your changes.

  • Your new glass wall type is now available to replace existing walls in your plan. 

    • Click on a wall to select it, then click the Open Object  edit button. 

    • On the General panel of the Wall Specification dialog, specify the wall layer that you would like the selected wall to Resize About when the new wall type is applied.

    • On the Wall Types panel, select the newly created type from the Wall Type drop-down list.

    • In this example, two exterior wall segments are replaced with the glass wall type. 


  • If you wish to draw new walls using this wall type, you can do so by specifying it as the default for your Exterior Wall  or Interior Wall  tool.

    • Select Edit> Default Settings  from the menu, and in the Default Settings dialog, expand the Walls category, click on Wall and click the Edit button.

    • In the Wall Defaults dialog, specify your glass wall type for the Exterior Wall tool and/or the Interior Wall Tool, then click OK.

    Note: A glass exterior wall will not cover the floor platform that it rests on. You can create a veneer to cover the platform using the Polyline Solid  tool.


    To create glass roof planes

    The glass roof planes for the solarium are drawn manually using structural settings that differ from those used for the rest of the roof.  Before creating these glass roof planes, therefore, it is best that the roof over the rest of the house be in place and finalized before the solarium roof is created.

    1. Build the roof over the entire structure as you normally would, using either the Build Roof  dialog, the manual Roof Plane  tool, or a combination of both.

    2. When the main roof is in place, select Edit> Default Settings  from the menu, and in the Default Settings dialog, select Framing and click the Edit button.

      • On the Roof panel of the Framing Defaults dialog, change the Depth value of each roof framing member type to 0 and press the Tab key to update the dialog so that the minimum allowed value is used.  

      • Click OK to close the dialog and apply your changes.

    3. If you wish to replace part of an existing roof plane with glass, click on that roof plane to select it and use the edit handles and edit toolbar buttons to resize and reshape it as needed so that it no longer covers the area that will receive the glass roof.

    4. Select Build> Roof> Roof Plane  from the menu, then click and drag to draw a roof plane over the solarium.

    5. If you would like to make its height the same as an adjacent roof plane:

      • Use the Move  edit handle to reposition the plane so that its baseline is colinear with the baseline of the adjacent plane in floor plan view.

      • Open the Roof Plane Specification dialog of the adjacent roof plane and make a note of its Baseline Height.

      • Open the Roof Plane Specification dialog of the glass roof plane, lock its Pitch, and change the Baseline Height so that it matches that of the adjacent plane.

    6. Click on the glass roof plane to select it and use the Resize and Reshape edit handles along its edges to adjust its perimeter so that its sides are co-linear with the adjacent roof plane as well as the glass wall(s) below.  

    7. With the glass roof plane still selected, click the Open Object  edit button to display the Roof Plane Specification dialog. 

    • On the Materials panel, change all of the components' materials to the same glass material used for the glass wall type.

    • Go to the Options panel and uncheck Gutter to remove the gutter on the glass roof plane, then click OK.

  • Click the Select Objects  tool, then click in an empty space in the solarium room to select it, then click the Open Object  edit button. 

  • On the Structure panel of the Room Specification dialog, uncheck the box beside Ceiling Over This Room, then click OK.

  • To create the structural members

    With the glass walls and roof in place, all that remains is to place the structural members that will support them.

    1. Select Tools> Layer Settings> Display Options  from the menu, and in the Layer Display Options dialog:

      • Scroll to the Roofs, Planes layer and lock  it.  Locking this layer will prevent roof planes from being accidentally selected, so drawing the structural pieces will be easier.

      • Click the Add button and create a new layer:  "Framing, Solarium Vertical".

      • Create two more layers: "Framing, Solarium Horizontal" and "Framing, Solarium Rafters".

      • Check the box beside Modify All Layer Sets at the top right of the dialog, then check the Disp column for each of your new layers to turn off their display and then turn them back on to turn on their display in all layer sets.  

      • Click OK to close the dialog and apply your changes.

    2. Select Build> Framing> Post  from the menu, then click once in floor plan view to place a post just outside of the structure

    3. Click the Select Objects  tool, then click on the post to select it and click the Open Object  edit button.

      • On the General panel, specify the desired material Type, such as lumber or steel.

      • Specify, as well, the desired Width 1 and Width 2.

      • On the Line Style panel, select your custom Framing, Solarium Vertical Layer from the drop-down list.

      • On the Materials panel, select the desired material from the Framing materials library. 

      • Click OK to close the dialog and apply your changes.

    4. With the post selected, use the Move  edit handle or the Point to Point Move  edit tool to position it precisely at a corner or end of your glass wall.

      • If the post bumps into other objects as it is moved into position, hold down the Ctrl key while you drag it.

    5. With the post still selected, click the Transform/Replicate Object  edit button to open the Transform/Replicate Object dialog.

    • Check the box beside Copy and specify the number of copies you would like to make.

    • Check the box beside Move and specify the intervals that you would like the copies to be placed at along the X, Y or Z axis.

    • Click OK to close the dialog and create the specified copies.

  • When all of the solarium posts are in placed, select Tools> Layer Settings> Display Options  from the menu.  In the Layer Display Options dialog, scroll to the Framing, Solarium Vertical layer and lock it.

  • Repeat steps 2 - 6 to create the rafters for the solarium.

    • Select Build> Framing> Rafter  from the menu and click and drag in the direction of the glass roof pitch.

    • Place the original rafter on the Framing, Solarium Rafters layer. 

  • Repeate steps 2 - 6 to create the supports for the walls and roof.

    • Select Build> Framing> Joist  from the menu.

    • Place the original joist on the Framing, Solarium Horizonal layer.

    • When placing horizontal supports in the roof, you may find it helpful to adjust their heights in a Cross Section/Elevation  view.

  • If you placed posts in a raked wall, such as a gable wall or the side of a shed, create a Cross Section/Elevation  view of that wall and adjust the heights of each of the posts so that they do not protrude past the roof.

    • You may need to select  and unlock the Framing, Solarium Vertical layer.

  • Select 3D> Create Perspective View> Perspective Full Overview  to see the results.