Shedding light on efficiency

Maria Holton of Luceco looks at why energy efficient lighting should be considered as part of the overall design process in educational establishments to meet the needs of flexible learning spaces.

The importance of lighting in education environments should be self-evident. It is widely recognised that good lighting positively influences learning, delivering better results and impacts rate of learning.

Rising energy prices and the pressure to reduce CO2 are high on the school agenda. As schools confront current austerity and budget limitations, it is important to understand that inefficient lighting can account for 50 to 70 per cent of the electricity bill. Making the right luminaire choices can reduce existing operating costs by as much as 80 per cent. LED lighting can deliver huge savings; not only does it deliver good lighting, it also costs less to run, lasts much longer and requires no maintenance.

However, in order for a new school to achieve its full potential, there is more to it than just ‘going LED’, as overall ambience, glare and functionality need to be incorporated within the design.

Luceco has been involved in many prestigious school projects. Highfield School in Letchworth for example is an impressive state-of-the-art facility providing a superb environment for learning for over 1,000 students. Original school buildings erected in the 1960s have been replaced with a new £15m facility. Funding for the scheme was secured through the Priority Schools building programme which is operated by the Education Funding Agency. The new school benefits from better classrooms, communal and circulation areas and new sports and recreational facilities.

Area-specific requirements

It is vital that pupils’ circulation route between lessons is made safe and provides quick access to each destination at all times of the year. Uniformity of light and good luminaire choice is a key consideration when designing for the corridors. The use of LED flat panels, both square and circular, prevent luminaires intruding into what can already feel like a small space often containing a large quantity of people.

Emergency lighting should be approached as a key design element. To achieve the 1.0 Lux minimum requirement for escape routes, specific LED luminaires are able to meet the required standards with long narrow distribution, produced by special optics which allow maximum spacing between luminaires. Lighting designers can help the end user to meet their obligation for emergency lighting with the right product positioned in the right location.

LED technology enables the school to be optimised to accommodate assembly areas and the range of different indoor sports activities, as well as a multitude of additional functions within the school calendar. This will deliver significant cost savings compared to the traditional alternative for sports halls – linear fluorescent with wire guards, or the high-intensity discharge light sources now consigned to the history books.

Choosing the right lighting in such spaces can be particularly challenging as a main hall is required to serve a variety of different uses. Glare control and adequate illuminance on the vertical combined with good uniformity are necessities in this application. LED technology is long-life – operating life typically four times that of traditional light sources – minimising cost and inconvenience of lamp maintenance.

Lastly, outside space needs to be lit effectively to ensure basic safety requirements are met, especially as the outside spaces are often utilised for a number of important functions from circulation and break out to recreation and sporting activities.

Lighting designers need to consider the quality of the ‘lit effect’ and practical demands such as colour rendering and suitability for CCTV, balanced with the location and mounting positions available in the area to be lit.

Maria Holton is senior lighting designer at Luceco