April 15 2016 0comment

Design: Lighting an Educational Environment

When designing lighting for an educational space, whether it be a classroom, lecture theatre, library etc.  The idea that lighting is for people, not the building should be one of the main influencing factors when determining what light sources are to be used. Traditionally, the objective of lighting is to enable work to be carried out quickly and efficiently without discomfort.

When lighting a classroom space, the objective of the lighting is to facilitate the learning process. An educational space differs from your traditional office space as students do not face the same direction all day. There aren’t rows of identical cubicles or desk areas, students often are facing different directions and learning from multiple sources throughout a day as well as working in groups spread around a table.

A learning environment requires a lot of light on the walls, as a majority of classrooms now use 360° learning spaces, including whiteboards, bookshelves, locker areas (for primary years), sign in areas etc. However when a smartboard or projector is in use, the desired end result is the opposite as it can be hard to read with too much light on the projected location, a simple solution to this is having a separate dimming or off switch for the lighting above the projected area.

When designing a classroom from scratch, the design should utilise daylight where possible for a more eco-friendly result. However the learning process is a main priority and should not be impacted for a more cost efficient end product.

Lighting can account for 30% of the electrical consumption within schools so where possible, occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting controls should be implemented. As numerous studies have shown, occupancy sensors can reduce energy costs by up to 75%.

Another important concept of designing a classroom is mean cylindrical illuminance. This standard relates to the illuminance on an exterior of an imaginary cylinder or simply put, the amount of light required for good communication between people. The cylinder represents human activity. The standard requires a minimum of 50lx and uniformity (Uₒ) (min/avg) of ≥0.1, calculated at 1.2m above floor level (sitting) and 1.6m (standing). In a classroom environment, it is recommended to have a level of 150lx with Uₒ of ≥0.10.

The minimum average lux level for a classroom is 240lx, however 300lx is generally recommended. When thinking holistically in regards to an educational space, sometimes the lux level is raised to 450lx at the front of the classroom to accommodate numerous outlying factors such as, an older teacher with impaired vision or extra luminance on the main learning area.

Below are 3 examples of ways to light a classroom space;


Continuous Lighting:

Recessed LED extrusion produced a seamless line of light across a whole ceiling space. The main benefits of having continuous lighting is the customisation, made to measure lengths and angled corners, resulting in a continual light source that matches the architecture of the room. Wall washing extrusion can be added across areas that require a lot of wall illumination.

Continuous Lighting



Direct / Indirect:

Suspended direct / indirect luminaires is a great way of illuminating a classroom while keeping a very comfortably, airy feel to the space. The indirect illuminance provides good vertical illumination for walls & students faces. Another great feature of having a direct / indirect setup is having the direct and indirect outputs separately controlled via a DALI control system

Suspended- Direct & Indirect



Tuneable LED Panels:

There have been numerous studies conducted on the links between colour temperatures in lighting throughout the time period of a working day. Some studies have suggested that having a higher CCT at the start of the day boosts alertness and motivation, then as the day progresses, slowly tune to a warmer CCT as we prepare to end the day.

This also applies to learning in a classroom; the example shown here is using tuneable LED panels with a CCT range of 2.7K through to 6.5K

Tuneable Panels