From kindergarten to high school, educational facilities strive to provide the best resources possible for students to succeed. In addition to study materials and computers, lighting plays a significant role in the learning process. Although LED lighting usually gets tremendous focus on its energy saving benefits, it enhances students’ academic performance and supports their long-term development. With the proper LED lighting optimized for school environments, a more productive and enjoyable learning experience for students can be provided, leading to a better future.
A Brief History of Lighting in Schools
During a period between 1930 and 1945, open-air educational facilities were created by architects to prevent the development of tuberculosis. These “natural rooms” were incorporated into their designs to offer wide access to the outdoors, including large bay windows. Because they had the physiological and psychological well-being of the students in mind, many schools provided natural daylight and took advantage of physical exercise and other learning activities. It was not until the post-war period that schools began to shift their focus to other elements of design like acoustics, ventilation, heating, and lighting. It was during this time that fluorescent technology became widely implemented in school lighting design. Over the years studies have shown that fluorescent lighting has had adverse effects on occupant’s health, including eye strain and headaches.
Benefits of LED Lighting for Schools
1. Improvements in Student Concentration and Productivity
One of the somewhat intangible benefits of LED lighting in educational facilities is the improvement of academic performance among students. As LED technology evolves to imitate natural light, students are benefiting from lighting that contributes to the maintenance of circadian health and boosts their learning ability. Because there tends to be more difficulty for students to concentrate in the early morning, LED lighting can be adjusted to increase alertness and jump start the day more effectively.
Lighting research studies have shown that when teachers are able to adjust the lighting for specific educational activities, they were able to boost cognitive skills and lower students’ rates of error. A year-long study conducted by Dr. Michael Schulte-Markwort, Director of the Clinic for Psychosomatics in Children and Juveniles at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, focused on determining the effect of light on learning behavior. Dynamic lighting was installed in a test group of classrooms so that teachers could select from four different pre-set lighting scenes:
- NORMAL Setting: Suitable for regular activities
- ENERGY Setting: Invigorate the students when they were required to be more active
- FOCUS Setting: Help the students concentrate during challenging assignments
- CALM Setting: Relax the students during individual assignments or quiet time
Unlike most standard lighting systems at the time that offered only a fixed color temperature and output, these dynamic scenes each had a different color temperature and light output. LED lighting provided a great platform to create the settings necessary for the flexibility required for proper testing. The results from the study showed:
2. More Flexibility with Lighting Controls
When classrooms are equipped with dynamic lighting controls, teachers gain the ability to tailor the lighting to the needs of the students and choose settings that create the best educational environment. Features like customizing the color temperature, dimming, creating scenes, or enabling automation based on activity can all contribute to a flexible learning experience. As commercial buildings increase the usage of automation, today’s advancements in LED lighting can easily be networked within the building and enable optimization across multiple areas.
3. Increased Health Benefits
Older fluorescent lighting is not only inefficient, but it is harmful to students’ wellbeing. Many educational facilities are making the transition to solid state lighting because LEDs do not contain harmful contaminants. A fluorescent tube is a mercury-vapor gas-discharge lamp that uses fluorescence to produce visible light. An electric current excites mercury vapor, which produces short-wave ultraviolet light that then causes a phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp to glow. Those same fluorescent tubes that contain mercury and PCBs have been proven to damage the health of children if exposed. The EPA also released a statement that schools in the United States built before 1979 may still have some T12s that contain PCBs.
In addition to being a “green technology”, LED lighting improves visual comfort within a space. Often two issues associated with outdated lights are glare and flicker. Glare is the discomfort produced by an intensity of light in the visual field greater than the intensity of light to which the eyes are adapted. Put simply, there is too much light that enters your eye and it interferes with your eye’s ability to manage it. LED lighting helps to target the light where it is needed the most, thereby minimizing glare and increasing students’ visual performance. It also creates less irritation for autistic students who have an increased sensitivity to direct fluorescent lighting’s sub-visible flicker. This irritation can often lead to eyestrain, headaches, and compulsive behavior.
Other health-focused benefits of LED lighting include improvements in circadian rhythms, mental cognition, hyperactivity, and mood. The optimal function of the body’s circadian rhythm depends on the right kind of light. This process helps your body determine when to wake, when to sleep, and when to focus or relax. With an ability to change the correlated color temperature (CCT), LEDs provide students the appropriate exposure to lighting for maintaining circadian health and align their circadian rhythm with the day-night cycle. In a GATEWAY program conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, it references that lighting in classroom applications “can support the suppression of melatonin during daytime hours and provide lighting that may minimize the suppression of melatonin during evening hours (when classrooms may be used by other community groups).”
4. Increased Energy Savings
According to the Department of Energy, taxpayers spend $6 billion on energy costs for K-12 schools. On average, up to 30% of an educational institution’s energy usage goes towards lighting alone. Commercial LED lights are far more efficient than legacy technologies and can reduce energy consumption by as much as 75% when compared to incandescent and fluorescent options. Unlike fluorescent lamps that produce wasted heat, LEDs focus energy into visible light producing much less heat. This means less requirement for air conditioning, thus less energy consumption related to HVAC costs.
5. Reduced Maintenance Costs
Classrooms, hallways, offices, and bathrooms. What do they have in common? More than likely maintenance staff are replacing a significant number of fluorescent tubes in all those areas. A significant portion of working hours could be spent doing replacements, especially in areas that are not easily accessible. Areas like gyms, auditoriums, and other spaces with high ceilings requiring ladders or scissor lifts for replacements. With LED lighting installed, maintenance staff are no longer focused on purchasing replacement parts and labor costs are virtually eliminated. Maintenance programs can also eliminate provisions for safe disposal and recycling of burned out bulbs associated with fluorescent lighting.
6. Added Safety and Security
LED lighting helps to keep campuses properly illuminated eliminating dark areas where criminal activity could take place. Providing the appropriate light levels around building exteriors, pathways, and parking lots helps improve visibility and reduces the possibility of accidents. In addition to improving the performance of security cameras, LED lighting also lessens anxiety among faculty and students on campus after hours.
LED Lighting and Lighting Controls Improve More Than Just The Bottom Line
By graduating to LED lighting, administrators can profoundly lower operating costs, minimize maintenance, and play a critical role in the success of both teachers and students. For schools working to meet ever-higher environmental and educational standards, LED lighting can be the critical advantage they are looking for.
How can you choose the right system for your educational facilities? Make sure you keep these things in mind when considering an upgrade:
Work directly with an LED lighting manufacturer to find products that work best for your environment. Their team should be able to perform lighting audits and provide photometric layouts showing the performance of the proposed lighting solution so the right decision can be made.
All LED lighting does not perform equally. Prefer an LED lighting manufacturer with deep engineering expertise producing products with long lifetimes and best-in class warranties. A company with industry-leading products and services.
Consider if you need dynamic lighting controls integrated with your new LED lighting system. LED luminaires can be integrated with controls at the time of manufacturing so that they can be optimized specifically for your space.
Over the last 18 years, our team has been trusted to provide LED lighting, signage, and technology solutions for over 18,000 installations nationwide. Let us help you choose the right LED lighting solutions that are best suited for your schools. Click the link below to get started!