Interiors 1,427 views Jul 18, 2018
The positive effect of daylight in schools

Good quality daylight is a must for all schools and is widely recognised as one of the best ways to improve the happiness and wellbeing of building occupants. It can not only maximise student performance and productivity, but also help lower a building’s energy use. While natural lighting should always be the main source of lighting in schools, daylight illumination falls off with distance from windows. This is why rooflights are playing an increasingly important role in the provision of daylight within our schools.  

The school environment is critical for promoting the wellbeing and resilience of children.  After all, children spend more than 7,800 hours at school throughout their education and a large amount of time in the classroom. Studies have shown that students felt at their best under rooflight or natural lighting, whilst teachers appreciate the low glare, good colour rendition and good behaviour demonstrated under the conditions created by rooflights.

Daylighting the interior environment has a direct and positive impact on student and teacher performance. A study released by the Herschong Mahone Group, Daylighting in Schools, looked at the effect of daylighting and human performance. Analysing maths and reading test scores for more than 21,000 students from elementary schools in different regions of the western United States, the results found that throughout one year, students with the most daylight in their classrooms progressed 20% faster in maths and 26% faster in reading, compared to students who had less natural daylight in their classrooms.

The pressure on schools due to the combination of shrinking budgets and ever-changing teaching requirements has meant that teaching spaces need to be flexible and adaptable. By introducing rooflights, including domes, vaults, pitched skylights or panel glazing systems, manufacturers such as Brett Martin Daylight Systems can help specifiers deliver educational spaces that encourage learning, concentration and positive student behavior, helping to meet the specific needs of each school project.

Daylight dividends

According to The Department for Education Building Design Bulletin 90, ‘The school designer should assume that daylight will be the prime means of lighting when it is available’. With daylight considered a fundamental design criterion, rooflights can help maximise the transmission of natural light to the interior of a school. Correct use of natural light can help achieve BREEAM credits for Health and Wellbeing – including daylighting and glare control – as well as Energy Saving. An important consideration when specifying rooflights is ensuring compliance with the differing national regulatory frameworks. For example, when meeting the requirements of Part L 2013, the minimum performance standard for rooflights is 2.2W/m²K, which means all rooflights should be at least triple skin. For a building to meet its CO2 emission targets, however, specifying rooflights with a U-Value of 1.8 W/m²K - to match the performance of the rooflights in the Notional Building - is recommended. Installing 15% of the roof area in rooflights is a practical solution to ensure the lighting levels within the building are adequate and will reduce the artificial lighting requirement and energy use, which in turn reduces a building’s CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the passive solar gain achieved can provide free heat to the building.

In addition to new build construction, architects and designers refurbishing and upgrading many older school buildings can reap the benefits of rooflights. Brett Martin Daylight Systems has offered guidance and advice to specifiers wanting to transform courtyards into classrooms, provide canopies and covered walkways, replace existing rooflights and develop bespoke daylight solutions for halls and circulation areas, leisure facilities and classrooms according to each project.

Seeing the light

For an inspiring, new academy in the Kings Norton area of Birmingham, a continuous vault rooflight system and glass domes from Brett Martin Daylight Systems have helped to deliver exceptional levels of diffused daylight into communal areas of the school. Built as part of the Priority School Building Programme and serving approximately 800 students, the new ARK Kings Academy has replaced a previously outdated school building.

The rooflights package included the Marvault system which provided the optimum combination of high light transmission and diffusion. Glazed in 16mm structured polycarbonate, the Marvaults could be easily assembled into runs of more than 23 metres in length. The economic, simple-to-fit, barrel vault system complemented the new facility’s high quality external aesthetic. In addition, the sleek and modern styling of Mardome Glass, a flat glass rooflight, will further maximise natural daylight into areas where windows cannot reach.

“We have partnered with local authorities, architects and schools on a significant number of school projects across the UK and Ireland,” commented Tony Isaac, National Commercial Sales Manager at Brett Martin Daylight Systems. “Our technical advisors can provide expert, impartial advice on the design, specification and installation of rooflights and are on hand to advise on the regulatory demands for daylighting the school of the future.”

Lighting plays an important part in any building, and in schools the lighting design should enable students and staff to carry out their particular activities easily and comfortably in attractive and stimulating surroundings. In addition to improving the energy performance of the school building, rooflights can be fundamental to ensuring that attention, concentration and overall pupil behaviour is maximised to enhance academic performance.