This is the most common lighting design problem in any educational facility whether an elementary school, high school, vocational school or institution of higher learning. A classroom can take many forms and can be quite literally any space with the building where learning occurs. In some cases, students spend their entire day inside one classroom while in other cases, different subjects are taught in that same classroom to different groups of learners during day and evening hours. As the most intensively used spaces in the building the lighting design must allow for a wide variety of instructional methods.
The arrangement of furnishings, resources and task areas, even the placement of instructor and the students in today’s classrooms is as varied and as flexible as in a modern office. The lighting needs to be equally flexible and responsive. With laptops becoming a standard fixture at each student’s work area, lighting that was adequate for fixed vertically oriented display screens, will now be problematic for screens that move about the workspace and tilt as much as 55 degrees off vertical. Designs for new and future school construction include advanced glazing materials and window and skylight placement to provide overhead light for tasks, while minimizing heat loss or gain and HVAC loads. Daylight control systems incorporate window baffles, shades and diffusers to adjust to the sun’s seasonal movement while daylight harvesting sensors and controls adjust lighting illuminance levels for maximum energy savings and extended lamp life.
These typically accommodate 20-75 students and have a rectangular floor plan of at least 350 square feet. Windows supply general illumination and contact with the outside world. They usually run the length of one wall and are a few feet high or they may occupy the entire wall space floor to ceiling. Some classrooms are windowless or may have a single small window in a corner. Windows usually have shades or blinds to control daylight for AV presentations.
Lighting for classrooms should:
Provide uniform distribution
Provide sufficient illuminance levels and contrast ratios for tasks or activities
Blend with and complement the space architecture and décor
Be visually stimulating and motivating (light source’s CRI and CCT)
Luminaire placement is important. The easiest approach for flexibility is to provide indirect or direct/indirect uniform illuminance on horizontal work surfaces throughout the space. Consider orientation of luminaires in relation to:
Position of desks or worktable groupings
Chalkboards or white boards
Location of windows
The photometrics (light distribution characteristics) of the luminaires
The need for flexible arrangement of furnishings