Guidance for achieving comfortable and well-lit learning environments

How to utilise glass most effectively in schools and learning facilities

The internal environment of any building can have a huge impact on its occupants whether that’s a residential building or a place of education. Within the realm of education, it can be a challenge to maintain the focus of students on a daily basis, and this challenge is made even more difficult when the building and interior design is working against the students.

It has been calculated that in today’s age we spend approximately 90% of our time inside a building, so designing “healthy buildings” should be at the forefront of architectural designs.

Whether in an office, school or healthcare, environment light and heat have an impact on the wellbeing and productivity of the occupants. There are many factors that contribute to creating an ideal atmosphere, these include thermal comfort, ventilation and the level of natural light within a space. These factors all contribute to creating a space that is conducive to learning.

Within this article, we will look at the importance of ventilation, thermal comfort and the air quality for buildings in the education sector as well as how to utilise technical glass products most efficiently in these spaces.


Glass facade on hertford university building


Why is thermal comfort important in schools?

Sandblasted Curved GlassIt’s important to remember that thermal comfort doesn’t just affect the learner, but it also affects the teachers. This fact never changes, no matter where the school is located, what size the school is or what type of learning facility it is. However, these elements propose difficult challenges for architects to overcome as the location and size of the building play a huge role in what the atmosphere is like outside the building as well as inside.

It’s no hidden fact that a large number of buildings designed for education purposes are outdated and no longer meet the comfortable internal environments that we expect today. Research carried out by RIBA in 2015 showed that only 5% of 18,000 buildings surveyed across England were performing as intended and functioning efficiently.

A learning environment is most effective when both the students and teachers are in a comfortable space. The indoor atmosphere affects the health, productivity and comfort of all the occupants which means that a good indoor environment can improve the work of the students and teachers. Therefore, guidelines are in place to ensure that these buildings are being designed with adequate ventilation, good air quality and that the temperature is being regulated.


How can glazing improve energy efficiency within schools?

Education First Glazed EntranceEveryone can say that increasing the amount of time we spend outdoors is beneficial, but it isn’t usually practical. Yes, lessons can sometimes be taught outdoors but in most cases, this adds to the pressure of keeping an engaged class as papers would be swept away in the wind or there may even be little access to outdoor teaching areas. This shows that designing healthy buildings is more critical than ever.

Providing students with increased comfort through the benefits of daylight and a strong connection to the outdoor environment can be achieved through glass facades, roof glazing and modern frameless walls and windows (both internally and externally). Skylights and glass roofs are recommended for buildings in the education sector as they allow natural daylight to penetrate directly into the room without causing potential visual distractions for the students.

There is usually great concern that increasing the amount of glazing within a building will contribute to overheating. Achieving “the right temperature” for all occupants within a room can be an extremely difficult challenge, especially as every human has a different natural body temperature (that is constantly changing depending on many environmental and personal factors).

Effective energy efficiency should be carefully considered when designing buildings in the education sector as modern building materials and glazing can create a highly insulating building envelope to help maintain a comfortable atmosphere and keep those energy bills and CO2 emissions down.


How did angled rooflights improve natural light at Hertfordshire University? 

Herts university building remodel with structural glass facadeTo the new law building at Hertfordshire University, IQ designed and installed angled triangular rooflights to improve the level of natural light in the new lobby and walkways. These rooflights were installed on shaped upstands that were designed so that they were not visible from the outside of the building.

To ensure that maximum light influx was achieved, frameless structural glazing was used as much as possible for these triangular rooflights. The rooflights were constructed from multiple structural glass panes that were silicone jointed together and supported by frameless structural glass beams. By keeping frames to a minimum, the obstruction to the path of light was much reduced.

Not only was natural light an important factor when these rooflights were designed, but ventilation was also carefully thought about. Metal ventilation panels were integrated within each rooflight for discrete ventilation to help promote good airflow throughout the space below.


How to control solar gain in school buildings

Interior Curved GlassIncreasing the amount of glass doesn’t mean that the air conditioning units will need to be running constantly to battle solar gain. Low-E coatings are required on all insulated glass units to achieve the thermal performance criteria that are outlined in Building Regulations Part L. Low-E coatings (Low Emissivity coatings) are applied to glazing in modern construction projects to help achieve the required performance ratings.

This technical advancement in the thermal insulation of glass has enabled more and more architects to include large glass elevations in their designs to achieve a modern aesthetic and improve the level of natural light in schools. These Low-E coatings (also known as solar control coatings) are applied to the internal face of the external glass sheet of an insulated unit. The coating works by reducing the amount of short-wave radiation that can pass through the glass (which is the main cause of overheating in highly glazed areas).

Solar control glass reflects the heat from the sun back outside and simultaneously bounces the internal heat back inside. This both prevents heat loss and reduces solar gain. Therefore, the skin of a building is working by creating a thermally insulated barrier to help maintain a comfortable, internal learning environment.

The team at IQ can assist in the specification of the glazing solutions for educational buildings. Using our years of knowledge, we can provide effective solutions for each project’s specific needs and challenges. natural light infographic explaining the mental and physical benefits of natural light

To enquire about any of our glazing products for your next project, get in touch with our experts at

Or call 01494 722880

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Lucy Thompson

Lucy is a member of the Marketing team at IQ Glass. She spends most her time working on the company's website and SEO strategy. She also enjoys dabbling in photography and putting together other creative content.

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