For approximately 175 days each year, school-aged children and teenagers spend their daylight hours in education facilities. The younger grades have the chance to get a least some time outdoors during recess, but the older students don't have that opportunity. Unfortunately, this means they aren't experiencing the benefits of the sun. Natural light comes with countless advantages for not only students' health and performance, but for the environment and the facility's budget.
When students spend their days indoors, artificial lighting may be the only illumination they may see, especially if their classrooms are in the interior of a building. This can leave them feeling morose, and potentially physically ill. While the proper ventilation systems can keep clean air flowing in and out of the building, they can't provide the same feeling as fresh air.
According to a study reported by the World Green Building Council, people with seats near windows sleep an average of 46 minutes more each night and had improved quality of life. Vitamin D can also lead to happier and more relaxed moods compared to those who only work under artificial lighting. These light bulbs may also stunt growth and lead to poorer health. On the other hand, natural lighting and full-spectrum light – bulbs that mimic daylight – cut absenteeism by 3.2 to 3.8 days each year and help students grow 2.1 centimeters, Healthy Schools Network, Inc. explained. The younger generation may even see nine times fewer cavities than their older counterparts when given access to the sun.
The outdoors can sometimes be a distraction for students. The swing set on the playground may be more enticing than listening to a teacher lecture. However, that view may also prove beneficial to students' performances on tests and quizzes. According to a study by the California Board for Energy Efficiency, students who had access to sunlight did 20 percent better on math exams and 26 percent better on reading tests, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported. They also scored higher in class compared to students who weren't exposed to natural lighting.
Window views may improve patience as well. For students who have ever struggled to learn a difficult concept or to complete their assignments on time, sunlight could help calm them and reduce their frustration, the World Green Building Council explained.
Unless schools have energy-efficient systems in place, electricity will be generated by fossil fuels and power plants. However, this produces an excessive amount of greenhouse gases. According to the EPA, approximately 40 percent of the U.S.'s carbon dioxide, 67 percent of sulfur dioxide and 23 percent of nitrogen oxide come from artificial lighting. This leads to poor air quality and contaminated water sources, which, in turn, affect public health.
However, natural lighting doesn't create an overabundance of these chemical by-products. With a few windows, schools can cut back on their energy requirements. They can reduce their electricity usage by turning off overhead lights and taking advantage of the sun coming through the glass.
Utilities are expensive, and a significant portion of a school's budget needs to go toward keeping the lights on. According to the EPA, energy requirements for kindergarten through 12th grade cost $8 billion annually across the U.S. Lighting is needed for all parts of the school, which means the electricity bill isn't cheap.
However, this can be changed with a few alterations to the electrical system. By installing more windows or using full-spectrum lighting, schools can save approximately 30 percent on energy costs, the EPA reported. The Durant Middle School in North Carolina installed an energy-efficient system, and, while it required $115,000 upfront, the improvements will save the school approximately $165,000 annually, Healthy Schools Network, Inc. explained. The facility was able to cut their energy usage by more than half with the new lighting fixtures.
People spend approximately 90 percent of their time inside buildings, according to the source. With that number, their exposure to sunlight and fresh air is limited. By implementing full-spectrum lighting and installing more windows, schools can boost the amount of vitamin D their students and faculty receive during the academic year, which can lead to health, environment and cost benefits.