Daylighting in schools

This study by Heschong Mahone Group studied the effect of daylighting on childrens’ performance in school. It concluded that a focus should be on sky lighting as a way to isolate illumination effects from other qualities associated with daylighting from windows, such as view and ventilation. In this report, a statistically compelling connection between daylighting and student performance is established.

Key Findings

The study analysed test score results for 21,000 students from three districts located in the USA.

“The positive effect seen for skylights in all three districts also reinforces the thesis that daylighting in and of itself is important, in addition to whatever other attributes of windows may influence behaviour, such as view, communication, ventilation, or status.”

In the California school district, students with the most daylighting in their classrooms progressed 20% faster on maths tests and 26% on reading tests in one year than those with the least. Students in classrooms with the largest window areas were found to progress 15% faster in maths and 23% faster in reading. In addition, students that had a well-designed skylight improved 19-20% faster than the others. However, students that had classrooms where windows could be opened were found to progress 7-8% faster.

The studies in Seattle and Fort Collins showed that students in classrooms with the most daylighting were found to have 7-18% higher scores than those with the least.

Daylight is quite a complex phenomenon and there are many reasons why it might have an effect on human beings. The report says some explanations for this are simply educated guesses:

  • Higher illumination levels have repeatedly been shown to increase the visibility of tasks
  • Daylight has better “light quality” that is more appropriate for human visual tasks compared to electric lighting as there is a better distribution of light, better colour rendition, absence of flickering light and reduces sparkle and highlights on 3-dimensional objects
  • Daylight might improve performance through better long term health
  • Daylight may help the students directly by improving their mood, or indirectly, by improving the mood of the teachers
  • High illumination levels help to keep the children alert by suppressing the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone

To view this report click here.

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