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BLOG: Why brighter schools make for brighter minds

Scott Leeder, Commercial Director at VELUX Modular Skylights, looks at the benefits of natural daylight and ventilation in schools

Posted by Lucinda Reid | May 21, 2018 | People, policy, politics, money

Various studies and reports carried out over recent years have found that the overall design of a school building can have quite an impact on a student’s ability to learn, their attainment, aspirations, and ultimately academic performance. In addition, the University of Salford has found clear evidence that a well-designed school can boost learning progress in reading, writing and maths; as part of the ‘Clever Classrooms’ study, a summary of the HEAD Project by Professor Peter Barrett.

The report also found that more daylight and fresh air, as part of an optimised learning environment, can increase children’s learning capacity by up to 8%. It states that good natural light helps to create a sense of physical and mental comfort, and its benefits seem to be more far-reaching than merely being an aid to sight. In addition, using daylight to illuminate facilities can also reduce energy use and in turn the school’s outgoings.

It is therefore important that when developing or refurbishing a school, architects and designers place careful consideration on this element of the design. A very effective method of ensuring the optimum level of natural lighting is achieved, is to incorporate rooflights or skylights into the building design.

Rooflights can be installed within a pitched roof or flat roof on new or existing buildings, however, glare is now a greater issue because of the widespread use of interactive whiteboards and computer projection in UK classrooms. The position and orientation of the rooflight is therefore as equally important. Another effective solution for glare control is the installation of easily operable opaque blinds to control daylight levels.

North facing installations are usually preferred by building designers because they provide a balanced light source throughout the day that is not affected by glare of the sun.  For that reason, “North Light” is considered as the best light for internal spaces. The maximum amount of light in a morning is provided by installing them on an east-facing roof, whereas a west-facing installation will capture sunlight from early afternoon onwards.

Rooflights at Trumpington Community College

At Trumpington Community College, the first new secondary school in Cambridge to be built for 50 years, Velux worked closely with the designers, Avanti Architects, to help optimise the position and orientation of the skylights. The team specified 245 modular skylights because they optimised natural daylight, promoted energy efficiency and offered a robust life expectancy, helping the building to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating. High levels of natural daylight are now the hallmarks of the new school.

The Clever Classroom report goes on to make the point that adequate ventilation is equally important in classrooms as lighting. The skylights at Trumpington create what Clever Classrooms calls ‘top openings that are high in the room, but easy to use, allowing the hottest and stalest air to escape more efficiently’.

Developed in collaboration with architects Foster + Partners, our modular skylights feature a minimalist design with super-slim profiles. This is accentuated by the electrically operated opening and closing ventilation mechanism being fully concealed. The overall effect is one of ultra slim sightlines when viewed from both the inside and outside of the building, and one that maximises the glazing area whilst minimising the visual frame profile.

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