Lighting Options by Space or Area

Specialized Classrooms

Many of the lighting design criteria for general purpose classrooms can also be applied to specialized classrooms. While flexibility is the key requirement for general purpose classrooms, in specialized classrooms there usually are specific visual tasks such as color discrimination, or manipulating 3- dimensional objects for which the task lighting requirements are more critical than the general or ambient lighting system, although the two systems should complement one another.

Computer Labs
Today, just about every educational space is a computerized environment and so the lighting needs to accommodate the technology as much as is practical. In certain computer lab classrooms, such as those dedicated to computer aid design/modeling, desktop publishing, computer graphics and animation, video editing, etc., visual display screens will dominate all other design requirements. Equally important is lighting that supports student interaction with instructors.
The complex topic of lighting for visual display screens is covered in detail in the IESNA Recommended Practice for Office Lighting and in Chapter 24 of the 10th Edition IES Lighting Handbook.

Design Tips
For visual comfort and adaptation to extended viewing of the computer screen, luminance around the student’s task area and other interior areas in the room should not exceed the following ratios:

  • Between print materials and the display screen 3:1 or 1:3
  • Between the task and the adjacent dark areas 3:1 or 1:3
  • Between the task and remote areas 10:1 or 1:10

Minimizing of display screen reflections is the key concern, Windows, luminaires, even high brightness surfaces can cause glare or produce reflected images. An indirect general lighting system with controlled dimming provides light levels appropriate for visual and verbal communication with the instructor or concentrated focus on the display screen,

Front or rear projection images are often used in computer labs. The lighting system design needs to include a setting that lowers the illumination on the projection screen while providing 5-10 foot candles of ambient light over the student area for note taking.

Videoconferencing Rooms
These special classrooms accommodate 30 – 60 students as well as cameras and display screens to send and receive remote video transmissions. Supplementary lighting may be needed to highlight instructors and demonstrations and enhance the quality of the video image. See the Conference Room Lighting section of the Office Lighting web pages.

Art, Drawing, Sculpture and Craft Classrooms
These spaces require high quality illumination for discrimination of fine detail, colors and dimensional modeling over extended periods of time. Lamps with high color rendering characteristics (80CRI or better) should be used. Supplementary accent lighting from adjustable luminaires (typically overhead track or portable types) is essential for painting and sculpting or close handwork (e.g. engraving and etching) and allows students to move their work areas as needed.

Science Labs
Tasks performed on lab tables require diffuse general lighting plus a directional lighting component with high CRI for critical definition of colors. The directional component can be accomplished by using fluorescent luminaires suspended in rows directly above head height to provide both ambient and localized task illuminance.

Libraries and Resource Centers
School libraries today range from reading areas in elementary school classrooms to high school learning resource centers, to general and specialized technical libraries in colleges and universities. The larger resource centers can contain many discrete areas, each with its own lighting requirements:

Reading is still the primary visual task. Reading areas require uniform lighting suitable for the most visually demanding reading materials housed in the library collection as well as for handwriting tasks. As in the classroom, the general lighting system must also accommodate the increasing use of laptop computers and displays.

Areas adjacent to visual display screens or film readers should be designed so as not to create reflections on the screens.

Stack areas require vertical illuminance for reading of book spines

Clusters of study desks or “carrels” have privacy partitions that may shield them from the general lighting. Small shielded fluorescent strip luminaires mounted on one, or ideally both sides of each carrel, will provide localized task lighting and minimize reflectance on laptop screens.

Circulation desks may require supplemental accent task lighting on the counter top. Additional information on lighting for libraries is available in Chapter 24 of the 10th Edition IES Lighting Handbook.

Seminar rooms
These are more commonly found in secondary schools, colleges and universities. Like an office or hotel conference room, they are usually rectangular in layout and house up to 20 students, faculty, or both, for face-to-face interaction. They usually employ general and local lighting systems with controls to adjust them for AV presentations and note-taking. Unless ceilings are high, the general lighting luminaires are usually recessed into the ceilings or installed in soffits so as not to interfere with video projection or visibility of the projection screen.