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Education newbuilds - the learning environment

The creation of an effective learning environment is fundamental to the design of school, college and university buildings. In the right conditions academic progress can flourish, which is why the choice of windows, door and façade systems is critical.

Daylight is an essential component in the creation of an effective learning environment. It is a dynamic mixture of diffuse light from the sky and direct light from the sun, which will vary in intensity and colour throughout the day,

Daylight has been shown to aid concentration, reduce fatigue and to be important for health and wellbeing. In fact, recent research on a newly discovered type of photo-receptor in the eye has linked daylight to the circadian rhythm responsible for the sleep-wake pattern; the production of hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol; and production of the sleep hormone melatonin. What's more, the effective use of daylight can also reduce the need for artificial light in a space, which can help save on energy bills.

Schüco has plenty of experience of working with architects on the design of schools and colleges to help maximise the amount of daylight entering the learning environment. At the Sevenoaks School's Science and Technology Centre, for example, Schüco worked with Tim Ronalds Architects to develop a highly transparent scheme to put learning and education on display. The facility incorporates 30 glass-fronted laboratories, workshops and technician spaces that open onto a day-lit atrium. 

Perhaps the most obvious question when considering school design is whether there is a need for more windows to increase daylight levels? Often it is not possible, or desirable, to increase the number of windows. However, it may be possible to use Schüco slimmer profile window frames or, with careful design, elements of the framing system could be strengthened to enable transoms or mullions to be removed to maximise the glazed area.

Of course, you can have too much of a good thing. Direct sunlight and glare can be distracting, particularly on east- and west-facing elevations where low-angle winter sun can be hard to control. Similarly, in summer direct sunlight can also add solar heat to a space and cause it to become uncomfortable. Solar gains can be controlled with appropriate glazing. For example, brise soleil can be incorporated into the façade to provide shade externally.

Schüco facade
Sevenoaks school, Science and Technology centre
St John's College, Oxford - Excellence Award winner 2020
Barbara Hepworth Building, University of Huddersfield

Acoustics too are important in a learning environment. Noise can impair speech intelligibility, while in excess it can cause distractions and inhibit concentration. Sources include airborne traffic noise from nearby roads, breakout noise from an adjacent room or corridor, or noise from nearby buildings or spaces.

Depending on a building's location and orientation, sound levels can be different on each façade. For schools and colleges in noisy locations an acoustician will often define the noise reduction requirements at specific frequencies that the façade and fenestration must deliver. The advantage of working with a window and door system supplier such as Schüco is that our experts can put together a solution, perhaps incorporating special acoustic glazing, to meet a specific acoustic specification.

Another critical consideration for any learning environment is ventilation and the provision of adequate fresh air for comfort and to ensure students stay alert. Ventilation rates can also be varied to help control room temperature.

Spaces can be ventilated naturally by opening or closing windows to control the amount of outside air entering a space; they can be mechanically ventilated, in which case the windows do not need to open; or they can have a mixed-mode ventilation system, which will operate in natural ventilation mode for part of the year and in mechanical mode for the remainder of the time.

Where natural ventilation is employed, it will be most effective with opening windows on opposite sides of the room to allow wind pressure differential to pull or push the air through the space. Schüco can advise on the number and types of window openings required and whether passive or active ventilation systems are appropriate.

Whatever window, door and façade solution is specified, it is important that they are thermally efficient to ensure the occupants are comfortable and to help minimise energy consumption.

Discuss your requirements

Creating a healthy building is vital to learning outcomes of pupils and students and our range of products can be tailored to make your vision a reality. Schüco has a team full of experts ready to help you with drawing details, specifications, product calculations, technical queries, subcontractor liaison and more. Email or simply click on the livechat icon in the bottom right corner.

Education newbuilds - the learning environment