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Daylight and schools: the wellbeing factor

With children spending more than 7,800 hours at school throughout their education, the interior environment is critical for promoting wellbeing

Posted by Julian Owen | April 19, 2018 | HVAC & lighting

By Brett Martin

It has never been more important to look at the design of the educational environment, with the provision of natural light playing a significant role in improving the wellbeing of students and teachers. Studies have shown that students felt at their best under rooflight or natural lighting, whilst teachers appreciate the low glare, good colour rendition and good behaviour demonstrated under the conditions created by rooflights.

The improvement of the interior environment has a 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 results found that throughout one year, students with the most daylight in their classrooms progressed 20% faster in maths and 26% faster in reading, compared to students who had less natural daylight. Further studies conclude that students perform at their best and are most comfortable when under rooflights or natural lighting.

Daylight performance

The Department for Education's Building Design Bulletin 90 states that: ‘The school designer should assume that daylight will be the prime means of lighting when it is available.' With daylight considered a fundamental design criterion, rooflights can help maximise the transmission of natural light to the interior of a school. Correct use of natural light can help achieve BREEAM credits for Health and Wellbeing – including daylighting and glare control – as well as energy saving. An important consideration when specifying rooflights is ensuring compliance with the differing national regulatory frameworks. For example, when meeting the requirements of Part L 2013, the minimum performance standard for rooflights is 2.2W/m²K, which means all rooflights should be at least triple skin. For a building to meet its CO2 emission targets, however, specifying rooflights with a U-Value of 1.8 W/m²K - to match the performance of the rooflights in the Notional Building - is recommended. Installing 15% of the roof area in rooflights is a practical solution to ensure the lighting levels within the building are adequate and will reduce the artificial lighting requirement and energy use, which in turn reduces a building’s CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the passive solar gain achieved can provide free heat to the building.

In addition to new build construction, architects and designers refurbishing and upgrading many older school buildings can reap the benefits of rooflights. Brett Martin has offered guidance and advice to specifiers wanting 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.

Making the grade

At the President Kennedy Academy in Coventry, an impressive 85m2 application of Marvault, a continuous vault rooflight system from Brett Martin, has helped to deliver exceptional levels of diffused daylight into communal areas of the school. Built as part of the Priority School Building Programme, the new secondary school serves approximately 1,600 students.

With the academy’s central areas requiring a natural light source to optimise internal environment conditions, the Marvault system provided the optimum combination of high light transmission and diffusion. Glazed in 16mm structured polycarbonate, the Marvaults could be easily assembled into runs of more than 21 metres in length with a span of 1.5 metres. The economic, simple-to-fit, barrel vault system complemented the new facility’s high quality external aesthetic.

“We have partnered with local authorities, architects and schools on a significant number of school projects across the UK and Ireland,” commented Tony Isaac, National Commercial Sales Manager at Brett Martin Daylight Systems. “Our technical advisors can provide expert, impartial advice on the design, specification and installation of rooflights and are on hand to advise on the regulatory demands for daylighting the school of the future.”

Lighting plays an important part in any building, and in schools the lighting design should enable students and staff to carry out their particular activities easily and comfortably in attractive and stimulating surroundings. In addition to improving the energy performance of the school building, rooflights can be fundamental to ensuring that attention, concentration and overall pupil behaviour is maximised to enhance academic performance.

Brett Martin supplies specialist plastic products for the construction, fabrication, print and display sectors worldwide.

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