Posted by Sarah Cocos on March 11, 2021

3 Keys to Holistic Daylighting Design for Schools

EDUCATION Applications

As we near the beginning of the school year, we should consider the tremendous changes we've seen in 2020. It is no wonder there is uncertainty in what students and teachers should expect when returning to the classroom. Health and safety are top priorities, but we need to ask ourselves — are we considering health and safety in the full context of today's new normal?  


When we look at schools and universities, it's important to consider how building design is affecting our schools' most valuable resources—the students, administration, and staff.  With all of the new unknowns in the 2020-2021 school year, there is added stress and pressure on administrators, educators, and students. It's time we took a more active role in our schools and advocate for brighter spaces that boost health and wellbeing for all who enter.


Since wellbeing occurs when our physical, emotional, and cognitive health intersect, we need to take a more holistic approach to building design. By understanding the influence of our physical surroundings, architects and builders can influence health and wellbeing in classrooms. At VELUX Commercial, we are passionate about designing and adding to the architecture of schools to promote health and wellbeing with natural light and fresh air. 


skylights in schools compilation


Let's review three key areas where architecture can promote a happier, healthier space by adding abundant daylight and fresh air.


Physical Health

Did you know children spend around 200 days a year in school, with roughly 70 percent of their time inside a classroom? Second to homes, schools are the most important indoor environments for students. When children are not exposed to enough natural daylight, their circadian rhythm is disrupted, affecting their overall physical health. 


With the rise of artificial lighting and easy-to-access electronics, it can be hard for children and teenagers' bodies to balance day and night. The body responds by remaining alert, which sets the stage for insufficient sleep and diminished sleep quality. Studies have even shown that delayed bedtimes without the opportunity to catch up on sleep have been linked to poor school performance and behavior problems. By adding skylights or Commercial Sun Tunnels to classroom settings, students and staff benefit from natural daylight to regulate their body's natural clock and rest, repair, and rejuvenate their bodies.

Altara Utah Elementary School with Sun Tunnels

Above: Altara Elementary in Sandy, UT. Architect: Curtis Miner Architecture. Installation: Intrigue Architectural Systems

Emotional Health

School settings can be stressful enough as it is with pop quizzes and all the new health and safety protocols. Designing classrooms that counteract stress is key to promoting happier, healthier places to learn and thrive. Incorporating Commercial Sun Tunnels or venting VELUX Modular Skylights (VMS) invites daylight deep into classrooms and common areas to boost emotional health and offset emotional distress.


Giving students the right balance of daylight directly impacts their bodies and minds. With more exposure to daylight, the body releases serotonin and increases Vitamin D production for mood-lifting benefits. These chemical changes have been shown to promote a more calm and focused demeanor and ward off depression. Without enough daylight, students are at risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which are directly linked to depression and increased stress levels. Surrounding students and teachers with daylight creates happier spaces that lift moods and ease anxiety and stress for a healthier space to learn and flourish together.

school cafeteria gym with skylights above

Cognitive Health

Students should reap all the benefits that come with in-person classroom settings to make the most of this valuable time together. The right classroom design is vital and has the power to increase student performance and concentration to raise the bar on our standards of education. 


Did you know that by incorporating natural daylight into a classroom, students have been shown to perform up to 20 percent better at math and reading related tasks? Removing barriers to learning and comprehension in lighter, brighter classrooms may be the boost we need to ensure schools maintain their performance  while fostering spaces that inspire, invigorate and infuse health across their student body. 

College atrium filled with daylight

We need to evolve and redesign schools that can boost wellness through daylighting and fresh air. Whether you're looking to add venting skylights to large-span common areas or even incorporate sun tunnels to make the most of small flex spaces in a floor plan;  VELUX Commercial can help maximize a building's daylight potential to raise the bar for education.

education ebook 3d 2021


Find out more about daylighting design in Education with our Commercial Application eBook Series today.