Trish Foster, Acuity Brands Vice President of Customer Marketing, explains the trends and impact of proper lighting for education settings.
- How would you characterize the K-12 education lighting market?
Data indicates continued growth in education construction. From a renovation standpoint, this means the older, dated schools, are looking for not only more efficient solutions, but also solutions that can have a positive impact on the learning environment. The education market in general is becoming more “interactive” with technological tools becoming more standard in classrooms. Intuitive lighting controls further expand the teacher’s toolbox.
- What are the top design trends in K-12 classrooms? How are K-12 classrooms changing?
Collaborative spaces are the top trend we are seeing. Classroom environments that allow teachers and students to interact with one another and exchange ideas. Classrooms today are not static environments where students sit in uniform rows facing a chalkboard. In fact, I have visited classrooms without any desks at all. Students have alternative seating options such as bean bags and sofas.
Also, teachers continue to be very creative with their lighting. In many classrooms, teachers are using table lamps or ceiling lantern lights to create warmer learning environments. This trend is positive for all lighting professionals because it indicates a need from teachers to alter the learning environment based on the task at hand.
Lastly, schools are wanting apps to control their spaces. They want the AV screen to be controlled by an app, attendance recording to be managed by an app. Even homework and class assignments are communicated and graded digitally. K-12 schools are embarking upon the Internet of Things.
- Generally, how are these design trends affecting best practices in K-12 classroom lighting design?
If spaces and activities are flexible, this means the lighting and controls need to be flexible as well. The lighting must be functional, of course, but with controls that are easy to understand and operate. Teachers must feel confident that when they press a control panel, the outcome will be what he/she expects.
- How are energy codes affecting design of K-12 classrooms?
Energy codes are having a significant impact on K-12 classrooms. Classrooms have really been the slowest to adopt LED solutions and, in some cases, controls. Codes are expediting this shift. With any new or renovation classroom project, it is difficult to meet the codes without including lighting controls in the system.
- How influential are initiatives like CHPS, energy codes and LEED in the construction and renovation of schools?
Energy codes are very influential. For states that have adopted IECC 2018, LED lighting with controls integration is a given. Typically, codes drive the initial interest in lighting controls for a school space.
Initiatives such as CHPS and LEED still have a very important role in school projects, although I am not hearing as many conversations around LEED. Both CHPS and LEED provide outstanding guidelines for creating efficient and sustainable spaces, that have a positive impact on the learning environment and incorporate natural daylight into the space.
- Tunable white lighting is offering ways to support learning by allowing teachers to control both intensity and color temperature throughout the day. How useful are these strategies?
The ability to tune the color temperature of the light is certainly one of the most significant advances. A class with intensive laboratory-style learning may benefit from a different color temperature than a class focusing more on reading or independent studies. With the advancements of LED technology and the easy-to-use controls platforms, every classroom can now benefit from tunable white lighting. Research indicates that changing the color temperature based on the activity or task at hand can positively impact mood, behavior, and concentration.
One final comment about tunable lighting in classrooms is that the kiddos embrace it. In one real-life example, the teacher remarked about her students actually reminding her to change the lighting when an activity changes. They also learn about the impact of lighting on the space from these experiences.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?
Schools are like a small city. Each space of the school campus has a different activity. Lighting and controls need to complement this. Remember, a high-performance lighting system is one that delivers the right type of light, right amount of light, where needed and when needed.