Kids learn better with daylight.

A study in California found that students with more natural light in classrooms scored up to 25 percent higher on tests than students in classrooms with lower levels of daylight.

That should come as no surprise.

What’s surprising is that the move toward incorporating daylight design into education environments is relatively new. That’s why Woolwich School in Woolwich, Maine stands out as a beacon for progressive educational design.

Background – a dated facility needs an extreme make-over

The Woolwich Central School in Woolwich, Maine, was due for a massive overhaul and update. Over $16 million was budgeted to update the existing structure and develop a significant addition to replace a number of old portable classrooms. Original buildings needed major upgrades to be more energy efficient and sustainable. In short, Woolwich School needed an extreme make-over to become a school for the 21st century.

Putting students first

School officials and project architects, Lewis & Malm Architecture, wanted to put student first and make the revamped school more energy efficient and learning-friendly. They especially wanted to use leverage the positive effects of sunlight. With sunlight, however, comes solar heat and glare, both of which need to be controlled for the best daylighting results.

Louvers-within-glass are central to the Woolwich daylighting strategy

To better manage the impacts of sunlight from all angles, Lewis & Malm incorporated both integrated louvers and exterior sunshading solutions. Integrated louvers are cord-free, hermetically sealed glass units combining louvers within glass that are designed specifically to ensure adjustable sunlight control. They can be fully opened to allow maximum daylight penetration, partially opened and angled for reflective and diffused daylighting, and fully closed for complete darkening or sunlight blocking.

The southern exposure of the new school was designed to accommodate common spaces and to maximize the introduction of daylight without allowing excessive brightness or glare from direct exposure to the sun. To make this work, motorized integrated louvers were built between the exterior and interior window panes of thermal glass to allow for precise shading as the sun conditions vary throughout the day.

Each of the three academic wing floors has a forum which serves as a common meeting area for the grade levels or cross-grade level meetings. These forums have a south-facing curtainwall that is comprised of integrated louver units that are motorized to better leverage and control the effects of the sun.

The south-facing classroom forums include stairwells and shared learning spaces with windows that feature integrated louvers glazed into operable sashes that are hinged at the top and open outwards for maximum daylighting benefits.

Lewis & Malm wanted the school’s interior and exterior design requirements to work together as a dynamic system to respond to variations in temperature and daylight conditions. Exterior sunshading support was added to ensure optimal daylight performance, while at the same time adding aesthetic appeal to the school’s overall design. These sunshades filter sunlight into the building while minimizing the impacts of solar heat gain and glare.

Results

The extensive school renovation now encompasses some 66,000 square feet including a 52,600 square foot, three-story classroom addition to the school’s existing structure that replaces the old portable classrooms. The glassed-in cantilevered entrance captures the sunlight and filters it into the interior. Daylight is harnessed throughout the facility with louvers and sunshades to help reflect light into classrooms and create optimal day lit conditions for students. To conserve energy and boost natural lighting, monitors automatically turn off the electric lights when enough daylight enters the interior spaces.

Woolwich Central School re-opened for students in September 2012. The new school boasts improved cost efficiencies, energy reductions, and a focus on natural lighting to enhance scholastic performance and overall health. Truly a school for the 21st century!

For more information on the use of daylighting design in educational environments, contact Viviane at vchan@unicelarchitectural.com