Lighting Design Goals

Because of the wide diversity of educational activities and methods appropriate to different groups of learners, lighting design for education is a challenging task. Lighting needs to support an equally diverse range of instructional media and technologies, many of which may be used simultaneously within the same teaching space. Used effectively, lighting can make a school more pleasant and attractive, reinforce a sense of space, demarcate areas for specific activities, and stimulate learning and behavior.

Good lighting design for educational facilities is a balance between the following three areas:

  • Human Needs
    • Visibility
    • Task performance
    • Visual comfort
    • Safety
  • Environmental and Economic Issues
    • Cost of lighting system ownership
    • Energy costs
    • Sustainability
  •  Architectural
    • Lighting systems complement building design

Regardless of the space or area being illuminated, the design scheme usually employs a “layered” approach, combining the three basic categories of lighting:

  • General (also called ambient lighting),
  • Local (also called accent or task lighting)
  • Decorative

The primary goals of educational facility lighting are:

  • Provide a visual environment for students and instructors that complements the learning process.
  • Facilitate communication between instructor and student.
  • Provide a visual environment that enables students to see visual tasks accurately, and comfortably
  • Provide illuminance that is responsive and appropriate to the psychological and emotional needs of the learner.

Help people perform their assigned tasks comfortably and efficiently. Such tasks include:

  • Reading, writing and drawing
  • Viewing laptop or PC monitors
  • Viewing audiovisual presentations either front or rear projected
  • Manipulating 3 dimensional objects and tools (e.g. vocational and trade schools)
  • Viewing whiteboards, chalkboards, easel boards
  • Viewing instructor demonstrations

Given the extensive use of electronic media, especially video projection and computer display screens in classrooms, special attention must be given to providing lighting that controls direct and reflected glare.

Inadequate amounts of light cause visual discomfort and can compromise safety. Too much light can also cause visual discomfort and consumes more energy than required. The Illumination Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) provides recommended illuminance levels for educational spaces.

Lighting should be controllable, either by automated building control systems or by allowing the occupants to manually vary light levels. Lighting illuminance levels in the spaces should be controlled based on the availability of natural daylight by incorporating “daylight harvesting” technologies. A controls strategy will pay for itself in both direct in indirect benefits such as: reducing utility costs, reducing heat load on HVAC systems, reducing carbon footprint, extending lamp life and reducing maintenance costs.