There are many factors to be considered when designing lighting solutions, including glazing transmittance, wall thickness, external obstructions and depth of space.
However, when it comes to learning environments, there are a number of additional factors that also need to be taken into account – including reflection from whiteboards, projectors lighting, desk layouts and good reading conditions – combing to create a unique challenge when dealing with glare, lighting contrasts, direct sunlight and the use of blinds.
4 ways to improve daylight conditions in classrooms
- Ensure daylight is the superior light source for most of the day-lit hours during the year
- Select solar shading systems that ensure a high level of daylight quality and maintain view to the outside
- Focus on the school’s most utilised spaces, investing in daylight solutions where students are concentrated
- Combine the advantages of both façade windows and skylights
Using multiple light sources
The influence of daylight and ventilation on student performance cannot be overstated – impacting every aspect of a student’s life from concentration levels and cognitive function to behaviour and how well they sleep.
Several studies from across the world have shown a positive correlation between the size of classroom windows and how well students perform on mathematics, logic and reading tests. Poor indoor air quality due to lack of ventilation has also been shown to seriously inhibit concentration and overall performance, as well as increasing absenteeism due to illness.
The presence of well-designed skylights improved learning progress by 19-20%
Skylights, in particular, are uniquely able to provide natural light and fresh air to deeper layouts, such as classrooms, lecture halls and common areas, where the size and shape of the space does not allow for adequate lighting through façade windows alone.
When utilised in combination with façade windows, skylights allow body heat and exhaust air to rise and escape upwards as part of a natural ventilation process. The addition of blinds, solar shading, glazing or light diffuse will also provide an energy efficient way to maintain cooler temperatures.
In terms of sound insulation, skylights have also been shown to be far more effective than regular façade windows. When compared to a street-facing façade window, a skylight on the same side showed noise levels that were 8 dB lower. A skylight on the side furthest from the street showed noise level that were almost 15 dB lower.
With all the evidence pointing to the positive effects of daylight on the psychological well-being of children, it is hardly surprising that in 2017 the Scottish Government introduced a requirement for schools to make natural light and fresh air available in all main rooms used by children.
In the case of the Glenpark Early Learning Centre, designers had to balance the requirement for a naturally lit interior while maintaining the ability to provide adequate shading for many young children to sleep or rest for a period during the day.
Following careful consideration, it was decided the most effective method of accessing these benefits was through the use of skylights. In conjunction with built-in blinds and an automated control system, both children and staff could access the benefits of natural light and ventilation while being able to control glare, provide shade and naturally ventilate rooms.
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Many thanks to Ian Goodfellow and the attendees of Design a brighter future, London, where we filmed and collected this material in summer 2018.