Reading: Sustainable School Architecture by Lisa Gelfand (Part 3)


Daylighting improves health and productivity and also provides comfort and pleasure. Yet most schools rely on artificial lighting during the day.

Classrooms with maximum daylight are associated with 20% to 26% faster learning than classrooms with minimum daylight.

Classrooms with maximum window area are associated with 15% to 23% rate of improvement than classrooms with minimum daylight.

Other studies indicate that exposure to daylight improved mental functioning, reduced depression, reduced aggressive behaviours, and led to better sleep in dementia patients.

Daylight correlated with reduced absenteeism on the part of office workers.


Benefits of Daylighting

Better Light Quality

Lower Operational Costs

Decreased Carbon Footprint

Reduced Park Usage

Connection to Nature

Improved Student Performance


Early Precedents

Florence Nightingale linked light and ir to health and hygiene.

She argues that the excessive mortality that occurred after wounded soldiers were put in dark, airless hospitals could be avoided.

She advocated narrow wards with windows on both sides, cross ventilation, and spaces for light and air between parallel wings.


Site Design & Daylighting

Outdoor learning, gathering, playing, eating, and parking all influence the campus layout.

In the southern hemisphere, the southern sky is the source. Having bounced around the particles in the atmosphere, the light in the sky opposite the sun is an even, broad source.

Locating a building with its long axis east and west offers the longest potential window walls along the most easily controlled faces (north and south)

The advantage of the north and south faces is that the sun is highest at midday, and even the sunny side can be easily screened by overhangs that can be calibrated to shade windows in summer, when the sun is highest, while allowing the low winter sun to shine directly in, when its heat gain is welcome.


Site Planning Factors

Efficient circulation and educational adjacencies

Variety and potential of outdoor spaces

Desirability of narrow east west orientation for buildings housing daylit spaces.

Potential for locating functions requiring less daylit spaces on east and west faces.

Screening east and west windows with planting.



Because comfortable spaces also have volumes that are proportional to their floor area, school plans, with their spatial hierarchy, will also have varying heights of walls.

The larger the floor area, the higher the ceiling should be.

The top of the window should be as snug as possible to the ceiling.

Another way to light the ceiling is to bounce direct light from a light shelf.

This can turn south-facing walls into a great source of indirect light.


Strategies for the design of windows:

Locate a variety of windows at heights that allow light to reach the whole space.

Prevent glare and heat from entering the window through shading outside rather than inside.

Limit use of exotic materials.


Strategies for designing skylights:

Translucent insulating glazing

White surfaces for bouncing light in skylight wells.

Provision for ventilation at the high point of the well.

Integral Shading

Coordination with artificial lighting.


Design Techniques to support Daylighting:

Distribute daylight throughout the space

Diffuse light across large surfaces

Avoid hot spots that amplify total brightness needs

Bounce direct sun at least once – off the sky, a shelf, a fin or a skylight well.

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