School Lighting


Illuminating educational premises is quite a complicated affair. In this paper we look at some of the considerations these type of projects require.

We also look at the feasibility of installing low energy LED lighting in to existing school buildings.

School lighting doesn’t just cover classrooms. There are many other spaces/functions to consider: Assembly halls, corridors, stairwells, kitchens, laboratories, changing rooms, staff rooms, libraries, etc. Each has to support different tasks.

There are also new pressures on the lighting of schools, compared to historical designs. Students with disabilities tend to, wherever possible, be schooled in conventional schools. For example, this means that:

Partially sighted students could be more sensitive to glare and reflections.

Students with hearing difficulty need to accurately see the teacher’s lips moving.

Autistic children are sensitive to sudden changes in the environment, and may require gradual dimming rather than instant on/off lights.

Generally, minimum lighting levels in most areas should be 300 lux, with labs and adult education rooms having a minimum level of 500. Corridors and stairwells should be lit to …lux and can have lower colour rendering levels. We can provide a detailed list of illumination requirements (lux, uniformity, glare and colour rendering) for the different rooms.


Many lessons include the use of projectors, monitors and TVs. Lighting needs to be dimmable and if there is likely to be bright sunlight, then blinds may be needed to shield the displays.

Any whiteboards should have their own lighting, which can also be dimmable.


In these spaces there are a good number of computer screens, and reflections on these screens should be avoided. This is covered in more detail in our office lighting design paper.

The general lighting should also be dimmable if a projector is to be used by the teacher.


Lighting with a colour rendering index of 0.8 is generally fine for most areas in a school, but this should be at least 0.9 in an Art Room. Some dimmable and directional lights should also be used to provide suitable illumination of sculptures and models.


The humid and sometimes corrosive atmosphere in these areas will require luminaires to an appropriate IP rating. These rooms need more illumination that a general classroom, and possibly some additional task lighting in certain areas.


Several different lighting requirements need to be combined in these spaces. Good ambient lighting, lighting to support the use of computer screens and illumination on the vertical plane of book shelves. There may also be some display lighting too.


These rooms are multi-functional, and therefore need flexible lighting design and control. The general lighting should be dimmable, and split in to several different circuits which can be individually controlled. Some provision for some theatre lighting may also be required.

Avoid lights with louvres as they can vibrate annoyingly when certain music is player/performed.

These are just a summary of a few key points. There is much more detail behind these which needs to be considered. We would be happy to look at your project in more detail.


If you are designing a lighting scheme from scratch, then the above points, and many more, can be considered and the correct low energy LED lights installed in the right places.

If you are looking to change existing lighting to LED lights, then you need to be aware that may undo a lot of the good lighting design work which was undertaken in the past. Specific lights are selected for a reason, and the overall design considers glare, uniform illumination, etc.

As long as these factors are taken in to consideration, then it could be a good idea. Be wary of the phrase “these LED lights are a direct swap for xxxx lights.” Insist that they show you how the new lights will meet the necessary requirements for lighting that space. A trial is not what is required… a new lighting design is.

As for the energy saving opportunities in schools, these are not always financially justifiable. The best ‘return on investment’ projects to change to LED lighting are those which are on 24hr per day, 356 days per year. School lighting is often only on for 9 hours per day, 5 days per week and then only about 9 months of the year.

Maintenance savings may help justify a change to LED, but it isn’t always going to be a money saving project.

If you are refurbishing a building or room, then definitely go with a suitable LED light. If you have to spend money buying lights, then it might as well be low energy.


There is a lot more to school lighting than meets the eye (forgive the pun)! Involve a professional lighting designer. Don’t just trust someone who’s objective is to get you to buy their lights – it is unlikely to be impartial advice.