Lighting Renovations in Educational Facilities

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting Renovations Educational Facilities

Schools are always asking, “How can we save money?” Lighting can be one easy answer to that question. Lighting renovations can reduce electricity bills and lower maintenance costs. Schools also ask, “How can we improve test scores?” Surprisingly, lighting can be the answer to that question, too!

  1. Inside
    We know that schools have classrooms, gymnasiums, and cafeterias. When thinking about lighting renovations, remember to also inspect offices, hallways, stairwells, and rest rooms. Before starting a school lighting renovation, find out if the current light levels are satisfactory. Be sure to look around for daylight in the classrooms, too. Remember, student performance improves under proper daylight.
  2. Outside
    Parking lot and building-mounted lighting is provided for safety and security. Using motion-detectors on outdoor lighting can actually enhance security. Lights suddenly switching on may be enough to startle and scare away pranksters. Schools may also have sports fields, tennis courts, or an illuminated track on site. These facilities require specialized lighting, but that doesn’t rule out the use of energy efficient fixtures.
  3. Lamps
    Many schools are still using inefficient T12 fluorescent lamps. Replace those ASAP! Recent studies of light and health show that fluorescent lights don’t contain the best spectrum for human circadian rhythms. Between the hours of 6:00 and 10:00 am we need exposure to 480nm light. This wavelength can be found in daylight and in certain LED lamps. Schools should carefully consider their options for optimal student health and wellness. How important is this? Exposure to the proper circadian light in the morning can impact stress, impulse control, calmness, and alertness. All of those things have a major impact on learning!
  4. Fixtures
    Replace parabolic fluorescent fixtures. If ceilings heights allow, use suspended indirect or direct-indirect linear fixtures. Better lighting improves mood and productivity, which can translate to more consistent attendance and higher test scores. Schools can sometimes be rough environments, too. Vandal resistant fixtures may be necessary in certain spaces. Don’t want to compromise style for vandal resistance? One of my favorites is the EVO product from Gotham.
  5. Controls
    Lighting controls are especially important in classrooms to enhance the learning environment. Sometimes the front of the room needs to be dimmed for presentations. At other times, adequate daylight allows lights near the windows to be dimmed for energy savings. Still other scenarios may require brighter lights in one part of the classroom for presentations. While providing all of that flexibility was once a wiring nightmare, wireless and programmable controls have made these options possible at an affordable price. Simple occupancy sensors can be used in places like rest rooms, stairwells, and private offices.

Lighting accounts for as much as 50% of the energy consumed in schools. Look for lighting renovation opportunities and find energy cost savings. Get the students involved to make your renovation an educational opportunity as well as a money-saving project.

Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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