A New Syllabus for Classroom Lighting
Providing children a quality education is a national priority. Curriculum, school culture, teacher effectiveness, and test scores have long been used as measurements for school success and student performance.
But another aspect is now being considered – the actual buildings where education occurs. The focus is on ensuring that buildings themselves are both high performing and healthy for children. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences’ WBDG, “More than other building types, school facilities have a profound impact on their occupants and the functions of the building, namely teaching and learning. Children in various stages of development are stimulated by light, color, the scale of their surroundings, even the navigational aspects of their school. Children can also react negatively to adverse conditions.”
The US EPA says, “High performance schools are energy and resource efficient. Creating them is not difficult, but it requires an integrated, "whole building" approach from the beginning of the design process.”
High performance, healthy schools not only save energy, water, and more resources, but they also provide a better learning environment through improved indoor air quality, access to daylight and natural views, better acoustics, and more. Greening schools helps improve student attendance and performance, as well as reduce a district’s operational costs.Lighting and Classroom Performance
A critical component of a high performance, healthy school is proper lighting. Research supports the connection between classroom performance and proper lighting. A study by the Heschong Mahone Group revealed that students receiving high levels of natural light were achieving test scores up to 18% higher than students receiving minimal natural light.
Likewise, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) found that there was a direct correlation between lighting and classroom performance. Their study published in OSA’s Optics Express on lighting systems for the learning environment discusses how lighting can be optimized for many various activities, from test-taking to recess to reading. Author Hyeon-Jeong Suk, associate professor of industrial design at KAIST stated, “We believe that small changes in classroom environment, such as lighting conditions, could make a dramatic difference in supporting students’ learning.”
Customizing Lighting for Individual Classrooms and Tasks
Customizing lighting for the needs of each individual classroom is essential, as preschoolers requirements surely differ from the needs of high schoolers. Lighting control systems provide the ability to personalize and control lighting at the campus, building, classroom and right down to the individual task level.
An example of a school district leveraging advanced lighting control to enhance the learning environment and education process is the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District (ISD) in Texas. The district employs an advanced light management system that offers customized lighting for each classroom based on their specific tasks and unique requirements. For example, lighting is programmed in the pre-kindergarten classroom to accommodate nap time. All lights are shut off while the children are resting except those over the teacher’s desk so that she can continue to work. Additionally, a special education classroom leverages a mild lighting setting to protect students from overstimulation.
Smart Lighting Systems Help Reduce Energy Costs
Healthy and high performing schools must be energy efficient. Proper lighting not only improves the learning environment in schools but can help cut energy consumption and operating expenses. The Department of Energy’s EnergySmart Schools report shows that K–12 schools spend more than $8 billion annually on energy, making energy the second highest operating expenditure for schools after personnel costs. It is also one of the few expenses that can be decreased without negatively impacting classroom instruction.
Smart lighting control strategies such as occupancy sensing, task tuning and daylight harvesting can significantly reduce energy consumption. Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD installed occupancy sensors to ensure that lighting is off when a room is unoccupied and turns on automatically when someone enters. This significantly reduces energy consumption in buildings that are often empty in the evening, weekends and during vacation periods. When classes are in session, corridor lights are set to a task tuning level of 30% of maximum light output to save energy. They automatically brighten when someone enters the corridor.
The advantages of high performance and healthy schools are indisputable. By incorporating innovative strategies and technologies in new building design and retrofit, student learning environments can be enhanced, health of the school community can be improved and operating costs can be reduced.
To learn more about how Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District in Texas optimized its lighting for better classroom learning and improved student comfort, while dramatically reducing their energy consumption, download the case study here.