Natural daylight is scientifically proven to enhance the academic performance of young students, whilst simultaneously promoting the need for health and vitality among young people. Natural light can improve morale, making it easier for young children to absorb new information and develop as individuals.
That’s why, at Sunsquare, we place significant emphasis on working with schools across the eastern region and beyond; helping to raise awareness of the benefits of daylighting and the architectural possibilities with our very own precision-engineered flat roof skylight systems.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) published its own daylight design guide back in January 2014, containing up-to-date guidance on lighting design and daylight modelling for schools. The overall aim of the guide was to ensure sufficient levels of balanced glare-free light to all teaching areas.
This article is designed to cover the main talking points about the design of lighting for schools and the ways in which learning environments can improve their sustainability.
Firstly, we’ll quickly outline why Sunsquare’s daylight systems are a sensible investment for schools of any shape or size.
High-specification Kitemarked rooflights
Given that natural light is the most readily available and sustainable natural energy resources available for any school, we’re confident that learning environments benefit greatly from the provision of our daylight solutions; maximising the amount of daylight into teaching spaces and minimising the carbon footprint of school buildings in the process.
Our BSI Kitemarked high-specification flat roof skylights are thermally efficient, can be glazed to minimise solar gain and are manufactured in-house with a laminated inner pane. Laminated interlayers offer the best possible protection from UV, as well as providing increased security, making a rooflight’s glass progressively harder to break through even when it has been broken.
The design challenges of today’s schools and influencing the schools of tomorrow
Back in 2005, the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) conducted an assessment of design quality across the UK’s secondary schools and found that more than half of all schools built within five years of the report were rated ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ in terms of environmental sustainability; lacking vital elements such as necessary ventilation or abundant natural light.
Wind the clock forward a little over a decade and although perceptions are changing in the design of daylighting in learning environments, there’s still a way to go to ensure the schools of tomorrow are engineered to encourage development, creativity and innovation amongst all pupils.
CABE insists the designers and architects of new school buildings should always ‘assume that daylight will be the prime means of lighting when it is available’. It’s a philosophy that we believe in firmly at Sunsquare: making the best use of any available natural daylight to promote personal wellbeing and productivity in all types of learning environments and transforming outdated lighting problems e.g. solar heat gain and glare that we’ve already touched upon, as well as poorly designed circulation spaces, such as corridors and walkways.
The Chartered Association of Building Engineers’ daylight systems checklist
A contemporary daylighting system for any school is one that controls solar gain and glare, whilst minimising carbon emissions, energy bills and transforming classrooms into comfortable environments that are lit naturally wherever possible.
The CABE published its very own checklist for daylighting in learning environments:
- Are teaching spaces positioned to benefit most from the natural daylight available?
- Has there been a clever use of natural light to deliver vibrant spaces?
- Is solar gain and solar glare well-managed?
- Are rooflights utilised wherever possible?
- Are circulation areas and high-traffic walkways well daylit?
- Are key teaching spaces and environments designed to be daylit for much of the year?
How abundant natural light can improve a school’s sustainability
Architectural rooflights, when combined with a contemporary lighting system, can dramatically cut a school’s energy consumption by minimising the need for artificial lighting during daylight schooling hours. When used as part of an overall daylighting system with sensors that turn electric lighting down or off completely when there is plenty of natural light flooding interiors.
The National Association of Rooflight Manufacturers (NARM) states that rooflights also make a positive contribution to Part L Building Regulations compliance for new school buildings. For the fabric elements of any school building, Part L2A 2013 of Building Regulations states that worst-case U-values for fabric elements – such as rooflights – must meet a maximum of 2.2W/m2K.
An independent study by the Institute of Energy & Sustainable Development at De Montfort University previously investigated the effect that rooflights have on the overall energy required to operate a building and the yearly CO2 emissions that result from this. The research concluded that by installing rooflights into 15-20% of a property’s entire roof area it’s possible to reduce overall energy consumption and association carbon emissions. This approach for designing new school buildings can greatly enhance their sustainability.
Within the publication Sports Hall Design, Sport England also supported the use of natural daylight in sports halls such as school gymnasiums, but recommended that all light sources ‘must be concealed or screened’.
Classrooms and their relationship with natural daylight
In the classrooms themselves, the presence of consistent natural light has considerable physiological benefits. There is a strong link between enhanced daylight in learning facilities and improved levels of pupil performance and concentration, as well as better exam results.
Back in 1999, the Heschong Mahone Group attempted to probe for a correlation between the impact of daylighting systems on human performance in public environments, such as schools. More than 21,00 students were assessed in primary schools across the western side of the United States. Their studies found that students with well-positioned rooflights in their classrooms progressed academically 20% quicker than those without such design features in their classroom.
Similarly, research carried out back in 1995 by Paul Grocoff Ph.D, found that traditional fluorescent lighting played a negative role in teaching spaces, leaving students feeling their worst and teachers acknowledging that student behaviour was poorer as a result. The study reinforced the view that rooflights and natural daylight made student much more comfortable, while teachers benefitted greatly from the reduced glare, colour rendition and improved levels of concentration and behaviour from their students.
Grocoff also noted the many studies carried out by The National Institute of Mental Health, which demonstrated that illumination levels typically afforded in schools and offices can lead to individuals becoming lethargic and irritable. Meanwhile, the levels of illumination afforded by rooflights were found to reverse those human effects, maintaining the widespread alertness of students.
How the Sunsquare rooflight range can benefit your school
Take a look at our recent work for the Sybil Andrews Academy in Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds. We worked closely with the project’s architects, Concertus in implementing the design of 31 rooflights – including SkyView, SkyView Multi Pane and Aero Access products – delivering stunning results for this brand-new school.
Given the vast areas of glass, the architect set a target g-value i.e. the measure of solar energy transmittance of glass of 0.33 to ensure that the building did not overheat in the summer months. As a result, we incorporated SN70 solar control in the glass specification, which also featured a laminated inner pane for reduced interior fading and heightened safety and security.
The second phase of this project was centred on the Sports Building, which also features four of our SkyView Multi Pane rooflights, delivering an abundance of natural light into the sports facilities below.
With over 165 different architectural rooflight combinations to choose from, we work with architects, self-builders and commercial and residential clients directly to maximise the amount of light filtering into any property. Whatever type of skylight you require, our team can design and manufacture it for you in-house with the utmost precision, style and security for your school.
If you’d like to know more about our full range of flat roof skylights, please don’t hesitate to call our friendly, experienced sales team today on 01284 846588 or drop us a line using our online contact form.