WA educational facilities using the benefits offered by daylight

The enormous psychological benefits of incorporating natural light into built environments are well documented. Educational spaces are no exception.

Solatube technology is helping this crucial interplay to happen, with an increasing number of Australian schools benefiting from the advantages of introduced natural sunlight.

 “Natural light gives you the truest colour,” explains Florian Mehler from JDH Architects, a firm that specialises in the design of learning and educational facilities.

“You can never copy what the sun does to you. Just think about situations where you work all day under fluorescent light. This definitely affects your happiness. If you can bring natural light into schools wherever you can, it’s good for the wellbeing of teachers and students alike.”

Solar-powered learning

Overseas research has shown that natural light offers a wide variety of educational benefits.

A 2014 University of Nebraska-Lincoln study on the impacts of daylight on preschool students’ social and cognitive skills revealed a notable positive relationship between childrens’ social abilities and their classrooms daylight conditions when compared to those of students in non-daylit classrooms. The results also revealed a significant relationship between cognitive development and classroom daylight conditions.

Similarly, a 1999 study by US energy efficiency consultancy Heschong Mahone Group revealed that children achieved a 25 percent improvement in test scores as a result of naturally lit classrooms. And in a 1991 study, the Alberta Department of Education found that students read faster in classrooms lit using natural light. After analysing the results of more than 21,000 students in Canada and the US, researchers found that students progressed 26 percent faster on reading tests and 20 percent faster on math tests in classrooms that were lit by natural sunlight

No challenge too complex

Solatube systems also feature in the senior academic block at St Marks Anglican College in Perth. Designed by architect Chris Oakley from Oakley Architecture, the brief called for natural daylight to play a starring role throughout the three-level, 22 classroom building.

“We were quite restricted in terms of the amount of windows around the perimeter of the building,” Oakley explains. “The use of Solatubes allowed us to bring natural light into what is a deep plan building. This meant that people within the central core of the building still could enjoy the benefits of natural light, with minimal loss of colour rendition, which is so important for teaching spaces.”

Oakley adds that the ability to collaborate with Solatube meant he was able to adapt his architectural approach in order to overcome some key design challenges.

“We had some very long runs over the three-storey building and some situations where we had double 90-degree bends in the tubes, but working with Solatube we were able to fine-tune the design and contain them within the ceiling void,” he says. “We’ve come up with a great result. Being able to integrate Solatubes into the building is just one fantastic design tool that gives yourself as an architect so much flexibility in bringing natural light, good colour rendition, all those good things, into the heart of a building.”