Natural remedies for learning

It’s a given that schools need good quality daylight for good learning environments; Tony Isaac of Brett Martin explains why enabling natural light to enter has never been more important

Good quality daylight is a readily available and sustainable natural energy resource, and one which is widely recognised as one of the best ways to improve the happiness and wellbeing of building occupants. It helps in not only maximising student performance and productivity, but also contributes to lowering a building’s energy use. Natural lighting should always be the main source of lighting in schools, but with daylight illumination falling off as distance from windows increases, the role that rooflights play in the provision of daylight can provide in facilities is crucial.

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 natural lighting, while 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 study found that throughout one year, students with the most daylight in their classrooms progressed 20 per cent faster in maths and 26 per cent faster in reading, compared to students who had less natural daylight in their classrooms.

The pressure on schools coming from 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, it is possible to deliver educational spaces that encourage learning, concentration and positive student behaviour.

From partnering with local authorities, architects and schools on many projects, we have a keen understanding of the specific requirements of the education sector. Providing expert, impartial technical advice on rooflight specification. Intuitive, experienced designers ensure compliance with Part L and help to achieve higher BREEAM ratings and can develop daylighting solutions to meet the individual demands of the nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors.

Since 2016 the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) has been addressing the fact that there are many older school buildings requiring maintenance and refurbishment. Taking an innovative approach, it is possible 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.

Many specifiers are aware of the environmental credentials of natural daylight, seeking to maximise the potential of this abundantly available natural energy resource. Rooflight systems can maximise the transmission of natural light to the interior of school buildings. Building Bulletin 90, ‘Lighting Design for Schools’ actually states: “The school designer should assume that daylight will be the prime means of lighting when it is available.”

The introduction of natural light helps to reduce the need for artificial lighting, thereby not only lowering carbon emissions in line with the Carbon Emissions Target for all new schools, but also reducing energy costs for the end user too. In turn, the passive solar gain achieved through the introduction of rooflights provides additional free heat to the building.

Rooflight manufacturers are able to help specifiers deliver educational spaces that encourage learning, concentration and positive pupil behaviour. Natural daylight is recognised for its enormous physiological benefits and this is reflected in CABE’s assessment of secondary school design. In addition to improving the energy performance of the school building, including rooflights in the school design is fundamental to ensuring attention, concentration and overall pupil behaviour is maximised to enhance academic performance.

Tony Isaac is national commercial sales manager at Brett Martin