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A classroom set up with sensors at Oxford Brookes University

Let there be light

Lighting should be a top priority for schools looking to enhance the learning environment, says Jason Ng

Posted by Dave Higgitt | January 07, 2015 | Facilities & buildings

Lighting levels become particularly important when it comes to education. Think about it. Students, whether in primary school or at university, are easily distracted. It doesn’t take much for them to lose interest and focus. Studies show that better light and more natural light can improve productivity, health and wellbeing as well as improve school achievement.

The Association of Teachers Lecturers (ATL), the union for education professionals across the UK, stipulates that any room used for teaching must be lit by natural and/or artificial light with 300 lux or more at any point on the work surface, usually enforced in classrooms, libraries and halls. Additionally, it notes that illumination must not be less than 500 lux where visually demanding tasks are carried out, for example, in laboratories.

So if ensuring classrooms, labs and libraries are lit correctly between 300 and 500 lux results in more productive students and less day-dreaming, don’t administrators owe it to the future generation of engineers, doctors and scientists to at the very least ensure they don’t have to struggle to read notes on boards or focus during lectures?

The solution lies in leveraging modern technology and lighting design to create the best possible learning environment for students and faculty to thrive in. Furthermore, by controlling lighting, schools have the added benefits of reducing energy consumption, without compromising the comfort of staff and students. This is increasingly important to the reputation of schools, as students, teachers and parents become increasingly aware of climate change.

In an ideal world, students and teachers would be able to use natural light during school hours. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and most schools have to use artificial lighting in classrooms and libraries.

Daylight harvesting is a solution that is used to offset the amount of artificial lighting needed to properly light a space. By investing in lighting controls, which often involve the use of sensors, schools can dim or switch off artificial lighting automatically in response to daylight availability. This allows schools to ensure their students aren’t exposed to high levels of artificial lighting throughout the day, with the dual benefits of energy efficiency and cost savings.

Lighting controls, with features such as lens tilting and high-definition lenses, and micro and macro detection capabilities, can also be employed to light any space in a classroom, library or assembly hall appropriately. By implementing presence and absence detectors, schools are able to employ greater control over their space and make a big difference in the amount of energy saved.

Additionally, performance optics and corresponding software, which can help schools to adjust and tune lighting levels throughout a space or duplicate it throughout a building, help to quell student distractions by providing a comfortable and well-lit environment.

Educational establishments may go back and forth about where to implement change first to improve the classroom environment and achieve energy savings, but with the latest innovative ranges of lighting controls available today, they need only look up from their desks to realise the key solution that could lead to a brighter future for education. 

Jason Ng is marketing communications specialist for Ex-Or W: www.ex-or.com

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