The importance of good lighting in educational centres
It has been amply demonstrated that light can influence us both physically and emotionally. A lack of light and/or prolonged exposure to inadequate artificial lighting can affect people´s eyesight. This effect is even more pronounced among the most sensitive groups in society, such as children in their developmental years.
The importance of good lighting in educational centres
For this reason, adequate lighting in schools and other educational centres, where students have to spend several hours a week, is extremely important.
In addition to the implications on eyesight, there is currently more debate than ever about the transformation of academic areas and the way forward for education. In addition to new teaching methods, such as the combination of face-to-face and online classes, we can add the digitalisation of many educational processes, both inside and outside the classroom. But what implications could lighting and space have on this new educational model?
NEW TEACHING METHODS: NEW AREAS TO EXPERIENCE
Project-based or inquiry-based learning has become a 21st century model of education, an approach that focuses less on learning facts and more on experimentation and experience. This new model has broken with the traditional education paradigm in the sense that it is seeking to transform the current educational experience. It prioritises multidirectionality, and is experiential, humanistic, collaborative and multidisciplinary, as opposed to the more dogmatic, unidirectional, competitive, and eminently scientific-technological traditional approach.
This new educational experience, or methodology, requires a transformation of educational centres and areas, following some of the following design criteria:
- Open-plan configuration: flexible and modifiable spaces, incorporating movable partitions, as well as easy to move, configurable furniture that can be adapted to any situation and area.
- The integration of natural elements into the classrooms, enhancing the acquisition of natural light.
- Spaces that allow project work, including different environments within the classroom.
- Multidisciplinarity and heterogeneity as the basis of spatial conceptualisation, thus offering a wide range of spatial typologies, allowing for different gradients of privacy and concentration, and including spaces that encourage collaborative work and creativity, and those designed to promote debate or public presentations, etc.
- Adaptation to people’s individual rhythm of learning.
In addition to the aforementioned spatial configuration, the environmental conditions in schools and other educational establishments play a fundamental role in the cognitive process. Comfort should not in any way be a source of distraction for teachers and children, and should not neglect any of the following elements:
- Air quality
- Water quality
- Acoustic comfort
- Thermal comfort
- Comfortable lighting
HOW LIGHTING INFLUENCES LEARNING AND EDUCATIONAL SPACES
Lighting is a fundamental element which has a considerable influence on the educational experience.
Classrooms with a supply of natural light, and complemented by adequate artificial light, provide what we call dynamic lighting, which is capable of adapting to the students’ biological and emotional rhythm. As a result, there is an improved educational experience, which influences both the emotional and cognitive behaviour of students, in turn increasing their levels of concentration and motivation.
Pilot studies, such as those carried out by Professor Schulte-Markwort, at the Child and Youth Psychology Clinic in a Hamburg Hospital, have shown that correct lighting in the classroom, in terms of intensity, colour temperature, and dynamism, helps to increase reading speed by 35%, while, at the same time, reducing comprehension errors by 45%.
In the same way, it was also shown that warm lighting reduced hyperactivity in the classroom by up to 76%.
The importance of good lighting in classrooms and other educational centres and spaces hinges on the fact that light doesn’t only affect us visually, but also has an impact on different physical and emotional attributes, based on the characteristics of the light itself, thus influencing pupils' school performance.
Lighting in educational centres must take colour temperature into account when deciding how the different areas are going to be configured.
Having increasingly versatile and flexible spaces in schools, as we have seen above, and understanding the importance that light plays in them, means that lighting solutions in schools should also have the same flexibility. Because of this, we must provide classrooms with lighting systems that allow different lighting options to be controlled and regulated:
- Generating dynamic circadian lighting, by varying colour temperature and luminous flux, and by the use of circadian optimised technologies such as LED Wellbeing technology, together with a spectral distribution similar to that of sunlight, thus improving the synchronization of biological rhythms in both children and teachers.
- Having specific lighting options, adapted to each of the different experiences taking place in the classroom. Environmental conditions can create environments that are more conducive to either creativity, rest, or concentration, and each of these states requires different lighting characteristics.
These lighting options can help us to create an atmosphere that will promote relaxation (through warm 2700 K dim lighting) at transition times of the day, such as when the children return to class after all the activity of break time. This will help them to be able to concentrate again, through the progressive change to a cooler, yet more intensive, lighting (4000-5000 K).
As we have seen, correct lighting goes beyond simply complying with the necessary light levels to be able to see and carry out the necessary activities effectively. This is clearly shown in the report "European Standard on Indoor Lighting" (UNE 12464.1), which is an essential read in order to ensure "quality and visual comfort" and to "create pleasant, comfortable environments for users".
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHTING FOR CHILDREN
Ensuring excellent visual comfort in areas and spaces where users spend long periods of time is very important both for the human eye and the nervous system. This is even more important for children who are in a period of development.
For example, controlling glare, whether direct (from the luminaire itself), or indirect, is one of the aspects that most influences visual comfort, as it can cause fatigue or stress.
It’s important to prioritize:
- The use of luminaires with adequate glare control to favor low glare levels (UGR) in any given area.
- Luminaires with no flickering.
In the case of infant and primary school pupils, it is important to be extremely careful with the lighting provided, and to consider its scope and its relationship with the environment. The height of children's eyes along with their greater sensitivity to "blue" light emissions (as they are in a period of development) make them more vulnerable to direct glare. In these cases, it is advisable to use luminaires classified as "Exempt from photobiological risk - Group 0" according to the UNE 62471 standard, a standard that evaluates the risk of eye or dermatological damage from lamps or luminaires. In addition to this, indirect lighting should be prioritized.
By way of an example, we can highlight the lighting used in the La Morera Municipal Nursery, which alternates indirect lighting solutions in infant areas with other areas with direct lighting using Lamp's Fil and Kombic luminaires.
During a child’s first years of life, which coincide with the first and second cycles of infant education, they develop, at a cognitive level, the perception of space and symbolic or abstract representation, as well as progressively acquiring orientation and perspective relationships. For this reason, having light sources with a good chromatic reproduction allows children to live and experience their surroundings through its materials, shapes, and colours, improving their cognitive development and their relationship with their environment.
COMMITMENT TO PEOPLE’S WELL-BEING AND CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
In addition to providing a better educational experience, lighting must meet the highest sustainability requirements. LED technology has allowed us to reduce electricity consumption, making the installations more and more energy-efficient. In addition to this, the absence of mercury in its manufacture was a positive factor when compared to other obsolete light sources such as fluorescence.
However, we also need to consider other relevant factors in the search for increasingly environmentally-friendly solutions, such as the use of luminaires designed with eco-design criteria, conceived as modular elements which can be separated for subsequent reuse, and those that use recycled materials, thus contributing to the reduction of the carbon footprint. Lamp luminaires very much comply with these solutions, as they are made with recycled extruded aluminium, which means a 70% reduction in the CO2 emissions emitted during their manufacture, and use only 5% of the energy used in the original process.