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Lighting and discomfort in the classroom

by Mark Winterbottom, Arnold Wilkins
Journal of Environmental Psychology ()

Abstract

Aspects of classroom lighting and d??cor that can promote discomfort and impair task performance through glare, and imperceptible 100 Hz flicker from fluorescent lighting, were examined in a sample of UK schools. In 90 classrooms, across eleven secondary schools and six local education authorities variables measured included flicker, illuminance at desks, and luminance of whiteboards. Results showed that 80% of classrooms are lit with 100 Hz fluorescent lighting that can cause headaches and impair visual performance. Mean illuminance (from excessive day- and artificial lighting) was in excess of recommended design illuminance in 88% of classrooms, and in 84% exceeded levels beyond which visual comfort decreases. Lighting could not be adequately controlled due to classroom design and infrastructure. Ceiling-mounted data-projectors directed at whiteboards mounted vertically on the wall resulted in specular reflection from the whiteboard, visible as a glare spot with luminance high enough to cause discomfort and disability glare. The intensity of the glare spot varied between different brands of whiteboard. Ambient lighting, needed for close work at pupils' desks, reduced image contrast. Venetian blinds in 23% of classrooms had spatial characteristics appropriate for inducing pattern glare. There was significant variation between schools and local authorities. These findings may provide insights into small-scale reports linking pupils' attainment, behaviour and learning to classroom lighting, and may also help explain some of the benefits of coloured overlays for pupils' reading. ?? 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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