Among numerous components that affect school building tenants, light appears to have the most essential effect on the overall student experience. Light is a quintessence for both teachers and students and has proven to have physical, physiological, and mental impacts on the human body. In the early years of the twentieth century, regular sunlight was the primary source of illumination. However, in a span of 20-30 years, artificial lighting sources became the primary source of illumination in windowless environments because of convenience and the high cost of traditional skylights and structural changes needed. However, recent links between building occupants’ health/wellbeing and lighting has brought the notion of school lighting quality to the forefront of environmental concerns in architectural design.
Recent studies have proven that there is a correlation between lighting and the human bodies performance and health. Light is an important learning ingredient in the classroom environment, as it appears to have strong influences on cognition and learning. Research on electric lighting in the classroom environment has received some attention over the last few decades but research on the impact of natural light on students in the classroom has been somewhat scarce. The very few studies in this area seem to show that windows, skylights and daylight can enhance students’ physical and psychological health, influence their mood, behavior and learning.
The design of schools is to promote learning for children and adults alike as well as optimize their physical and emotional health. It should not be ignored that schools are among the most crowded buildings most of the year. Applying adequate daylighting techniques into the architecture of a school contributes the occupants’ physical and emotional health. Students and teachers can both benefit from integrating daylight properly. Saving energy, improved student attendance, health and academic performance, and a less stressful environment for students are only a few benefits of adequate daylighting in educational environments. Studies show that teachers are happier when they have the ability to control their environment. Healthy and happy teachers save school money and have better performance in teaching. In contrast, a school with inadequate lighting design might demote students’ ability of learning. Poor light spectral quality in classrooms can create strain on students’ eyes and lead to a decrease in information processing and learning ability as well as higher stress levels in students.
A little known case study by Kuller and Lindsten studied children’s health and behavior in classrooms with and without windows for a whole academic year. They concluded that tasks in classrooms without windows affected the basic pattern of the hormone cortisol, which is related to stress, and could, therefore, have a negative effect on children’s health and concentration. Another study in Sweden proved that observed behavior and circadian hormone levels of elementary students in classrooms with natural light stayed closer to expected norms in comparison with students in classrooms with only fluorescent lighting. Heschong and Mahone studied the impact of natural light and students and found that the addition of natural light improves student test score by up to 20%. Taylor states that students in classrooms with the most daylighting progress 20% and 26% faster in one year in math tests and reading tests respectively compared to their counterparts in classrooms with little or no natural light.
Furthermore, many studies indicate that daylighting enhances mental performance and decreases aggressive behavior as well as depression. Another important psychological aspect resulting from daylighting is meeting our need for contact with the outside world through daylight apertures in buildings. In this regard daylighting has a natural healing effect by its provisions of view to the outside world. Daylighting can enhance a connection to nature and directly improve the mood of the building occupants. As shown in TABLE 1 there is a multitude of physiological and psychological benefits resulting from building daylighting.
F. N.Shishegar, Master of Architecture student at Illinois School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
S. M. Boubekri, Associate professor at Illinois School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
R. Kuller, C. Lindsten, “Health and behavior of children in classrooms with andwithout windows. Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 12, pp. 305-17, 1992
C.L. Robbins, Daylighting: Design and Analysis, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986.
L. Gelfand, E. C. Freed, Sustainable School Architecture: Design for Elementary and Secondary School, John Wiley and Sons Inc.