Choices for Lighting in School Buildings

Light in school buildings traditionally is from a combination of daylight and electric light to illuminate learning spaces (e.g. classrooms, labs, studios, etc.), hallways, cafeterias, offices and other interior areas. Light fixtures currently in use usually provide students and teachers with satisfactory visual performance, i.e., the ability to read a book, have lunch, or play basketball in a gymnasium. However, classroom lighting may also affect students’ circadian systems, which may in turn affect test scores, attendance and behavior.

Exposure to light, or lack thereof, plays a significant role in sleep cycles. All animals, including humans, have evolved circadian rhythms, which respond to the earth’s 24-hour cycle. These rhythms include the sleep–wake cycle, hormone production, and core body temperature cycles. The timing of these patterns is set by the 24-hour light–dark cycle. In particular, short-wavelength “blue” light in the daylight spectrum has maximal effect on human circadian rhythms. Research has shown that when these patterns are disrupted, individuals are more susceptible to ailments such as breast cancer, obesity, sleep deprivation, mood disorders, and other health problems.

According to Energy Star, after salaries and benefits, energy costs are the largest operating expense for school districts. Fluorescent lighting systems are the most prevalent sources of illumination in schools. These systems provide low cost, long life, high efficacy, good color, and low levels of noise and flicker. Lighting systems should be designed with respect to the requirements of the activity to be performed. For instance, lighting over a desk should be different than light required in cafeterias or hallways. Current sustainable design guidelines for schools usually focus only on energy-conserving luminaires with consideration only for visual needs. Several aspects of building performance, including lighting, are fundamental in providing an environment that is conducive to learning. Facility aspects such as security and safety, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, visual comfort, and acoustic comfort conditions can affect attendance, teacher turnover rates, and occupant health.

Education facilities such as primary schools, secondary schools and universities all have their own unique lighting challenges. Lighting a classroom environment requires the evaluation of natural light available from windows, consideration of tasks being carried out and the integration of technology used within schools. Computers, electronic whiteboards and other surfaces need to be considered within the overall lighting strategy to ensure visual clarity. Carefully chosen lighting products can create an environment that promotes student performance and overall wellbeing.

Dimming Features

In areas where presentations will be made on large television screen or electronic whiteboard it is essential to choose light fittings with a dimming feature to maximise usability. Dimming can also mitigate glare and the eye strain that can be caused by prolonged screen use.

Lifespan, Maintenance & Energy Savings

When specifying lighting in a school, LED light fittings offer savings for both cost and maintenance. With a lifespan of 10,000 hours LED lights need to be replaced less often than traditional fluorescent lights. In contrast to the fluorescent lighting used in classrooms, LED lights require less energy to run and do not have pesky flicker issues.

Colour Temperatures

Cool White

Warm white lighting (2000K – 3000K) has a smooth and relaxing feeling. It is more appropriate for use in lower activity areas such as bathrooms or locker rooms to create a calming environment.

Warm White

Cool white lighting (3100K – 4500K) has an intense and vibrant white colour. Cool white light is best used in more task-oriented areas such as desks and computers. Cool temperatures promote alertness and concentration for activities such as reading.

Lighting Fixtures for Different Spaces

Linear Lighting Series

The Linear Lighting Series is a popular lighting product for schools because it is a general purpose light that is appropriate for use in the main classroom area. These can be recessed, surface mounted or suspended – with the latter two options being the most common for classrooms. They can also be dimmed for demonstrations that require the use of a television screen or whiteboard and allow for better viewing of the screen.

Track Lighting

Although not traditionally considered, track lighting has a range of applications in a school setting. It is most appropriate for specific task lighting and can be used over benches technical areas such as the science labs or in the food technology room. Whether surface mounted or suspended, track lighting is a very adaptable lighting solution. Tracks can be configured to to fit the shape of any room and lighting heads can be added and removed as required.

Honeycomb Low Glare Panel Light

The honeycomb design makes the lighting more layered and diversified. The honeycomb wall has a certain degree of light transmittance, which ensures the brightness and the light-emitting angle. Also glare control is the key element of the lighting experience. With its low glare, it can effectively protect students’ eyes. It is suitable for reading rooms and libraries.
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