Daylighting In Schools
We want what’s best for our kids, right? One way my own kids revitalize during the long school day is by having their all-important recess breaks. At recess, they go outside and move their bodies in tune with nature, taking in fresh air and sunshine. When I ask them what is their favorite class, “recess” is always their answer! So I figure, why limit the “feel good” benefits to the outdoors? Let’s bring some nature into the classroom and let our kids feel the benefits throughout the day.
Sunlight and Our Biological Clocks
Time and time again, studies tell us kids learn best in classrooms with well-lit, glare-free, natural daylighting. Sunlight is the most important source of light and energy for humans. Circadian rhythm is essentially the master clock of our bodies. Light is the main cue influencing circadian rhythms, turning on or off the genes that control our internal clocks. “Unhealthy” lighting systems affect the natural daily biological functioning of the body, greatly influencing the body’s natural circadian rhythms and hormonal patterns (H Grover and JE Calmeyer, 2004, The Effect of healthy lighting systems on worker health and Performance, Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering). It’s easy to see that classrooms lit by natural daylight throughout the day create a healthier, more enjoyable learning environment.
Better Students through Daylighting
Daylighting is the design of buildings to make best use of natural light from the sun. Studies have shown that daylight or full spectrum light is associated with healthier, more productive students. In classrooms with beneficial natural lighting, student and teacher absenteeism is reduced, and students grow at a healthier pace than students in classrooms with only artificial light. One study found that students in classrooms with the most daylighting progressed, in one year, 20% faster in math tests and 26% faster in reading tests than students with the least amount of natural light (Taylor and Engass, 2009, Linking Architecture and Education: Sustainable Design For Learning Environments).
The Power of Daylighting
Daylighting is one of the best investments you can make in the design of a learning environment (Gelfand and Freed, Sustainable School Architecture: Design for Elementary and Secondary School John Wiley and Sons Inc., 2010). Designing a useful lighting system certainly will have positive effect on students’ academic scores, faculty’s teaching performance, and occupants’ health and mood. Daylighting does all this, while simultaneously saving energy and utility costs (Aysen Demir, 2913, Impact on Daylighting on Student and Teacher Performance).
Done properly, daylighting in schools creates classrooms that support of human health and scholastic activities while reducing electric lighting energy demand. Schools realize greater energy efficiency, save money, and reduce our carbon footprint. Most importantly, our kids are set up to perform at their best: healthier, happier, and better scholars!