What Are The Benefits of Natural Light in Schools?
Just as natural daylight increases productivity and efficiency within the workplace, it also improves productivity and efficiency within the classroom alongside improvements to the overall health of students and teachers alike.
Legislation issued in 2002 recognised the benefits of this underutilised natural response by making it a legal requirement for buildings to have adequate natural daylight as part of their design.
The legislation states that a minimum 20% of the wall area or 10% of the roof area must comprise of light transmitting elements. For schools, specific guidance on natural lighting is available in Building Bulletin 90 (BB90) ‘Lighting Design for Schools’. This paper emphasises that natural lighting during daylight hours should be the major source, supplemented by electric light where needed. The BB90 paper details lighting design and the importance of rooflights. As it explains, rooflights let in light from the brightest part of the sky and are not usually affected by external obstructions, such as trees, shrubs or other buildings. Rooflights can also provide views of the sky and promote a sense of wellbeing and connection to nature without the distractions encountered with views through vertical glass windows such as seeing other children playing outside or passers-by.
Natural light improves exam grades
In 1999, a study was carried out by the Heschong Mahone Group – a consultancy in the energy efficiency industry – that revealed an interesting fact about environment and education: children score better on tests in naturally lit classrooms compared to those with artificial lighting.
The difference between tests taken in an artificially lit environment and those sat in a naturally lit environment was by no means small. The study revealed that a 25 percent improvement in test scores occurred in naturally lit environments compared with artificially lit classrooms.
It is believed that the increased test results were due to the improvements in students’ mood and mental alertness, improved vision, improved concentration and generally improved levels of happiness.
Natural daylight improves health and wellbeing
In addition to improving educational test/grade results, exposure to natural light improves overall health. A 1987-1991 study discovered that students who studied in naturally lit classrooms had a range of health advantages including: -
- Better dental health.
- Healthier height and weight for their relevant ages.
- Lower absentee levels.
Interestingly, the same study also revealed that students who studied in artificially lit classrooms had the lower educational achievement levels, higher level of absenteeism and worse dental health due to the lack of daylight exposure.
According a recent study entitled Effect of Daylighting on Student Health and Performance:
- Daylighting promotes a vitamin D generation and circadian regulation
- Poor daylighting causes discomfort, which reduces learning and it is detrimental to the physical and mental health of students
- Daylighting also enhances mental performance, decreases depression, improves sleep, and can help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Natural light is completely free of charge
Depending on artificial light has more costs associated with it than poor academic performance and a higher number of student sick days. In addition to its negative effects on school performance, artificial light costs a huge amount every month.
With the price of energy on the rise, being able to inexpensively light your school or college is a massive financial advantage. By reducing your utility bills using natural light, you’ll have a larger budget to spend on important educational activities.
Schools and colleges, particularly those in sunny states like California, can enjoy an extensive range of benefits from natural lighting. Consider daylighting today for a more productive, healthy, cost-effective and motivated learning environment.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, "America’s schools spend more than $8 billion each year on energy, and about 26% of electricity consumed by a typical school is just for lighting alone." Additionally, "Utilizing natural light can lead to substantial energy savings. Electric lighting in buildings consumes more than 15 percent of all electricity generated in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Energy Information Administration," (Source).