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School Sports Lighting

Back to the marker board: some fresh thinking on school sports lighting

Next-generation lighting technology is enabling an increasing number of schools to optimise the coverage of sports halls and other challenging spaces, but any new specification must be undertaken very carefully, writes Colin Lawson, Head of Sales, Marketing and Product Development at Tamlite Lighting.

From high-efficiency fluorescents to the latest LED fixtures, schools and colleges of higher education have never faced a greater variety of choice when it comes to selecting new lighting systems. Most, if not all, of these products will deliver significant cost-savings and increased life expectancy compared to legacy solutions, but it would be far from accurate to suggest that 'all fixtures are created equal.'

In particular, choosing the right systems for a sports hall can be particularly challenging. Complying with multiple relevant regulatory frameworks, such as CIBSE Lighting Guide 4 and Sports England criteria, is bound to be one pressing priority. Most establishments will also wish to incorporate a sophisticated dimming and scene-setting system to complement the wide range of sports – and quite probably also some non-sports – activities that will take place in the hall.
In terms of the fixtures themselves, long-life will be a prerequisite as schools and colleges seek to maximise RoI and reduce maintenance costs. This won't comprise a significant challenge given the present availability of high-efficiency lighting, but by no means all fixtures will be able to ensure sufficient reduction of glare and the necessary uniformity of coverage.

Not surprisingly given this growing remit of expectations, traditional high-intensity discharge light sources have overwhelmingly been consigned to the history books now. The latest generation of fluorescent lights can provide a suitable solution if carefully specified, and in particular can deliver dramatic reduction of glare. But in general, it is evident that LED lighting is now being selected for many school facility fit-outs – and its not too difficult to see why.

LED leading the way
The potential energy savings certainly help to make a compelling case. Energy consumption in school projects is typically cut by more than 50% by 'going LED', with payback on investment often achieved in a couple of years. As schools confront austerity measures and the prospect of further cutbacks, LED lighting's ability to reduce energy bills is bound to be attractive.

Adequate illumination of the vertical plane is a specific requirement for some sports activities, and can also be delivered by the latest fixtures. Glare can be an issue with LED given the small footprint of the source, but may be addressed effectively with highly transmissive lenses. Then there is the ability for LED-based systems to be deployed quickly and easily with scene-setting controllers, such as those which utilise the industry standard DALI protocol.

Indeed, it is hard to over-emphasise the benefits that can result from implementing LED in conjunction with intelligent lighting control. The combination of techniques such as presence and daylight dimming, as well as multiple 'scenes' to suit individual activities, can ensure that a given area is always appropriately illuminated. When one considers that this approach may be applied widely across a schools sports curriculum – for example, indoor football, cricket, basketball, badminton and netball – then it is evident that energy usage can be highly optimised. And for the school personnel, the good news is that manufacturers have invested much R&D energy over the last few years into making centralised control interfaces as straightforward and user-friendly as possible.

Then there is the impact on pupil and teacher health and morale. It has been shown repeatedly that LED lighting can have an enhanced effect on the bodys natural circadian rhythm cycle. More specifically, LED has a much higher content of the blue end of the colour spectrum, which helps to suppress melatonin levels and encourage a greater sense of energy and vitality. Away from natural daylight, there is undoubtedly a benefit to be attained from this in an educational environment.

Pools of thought
Further factors enter the frame if a swimming pool is involved in a lighting upgrade. The safety of users is obviously of paramount importance, and that means effective control of the reflections on the waters surface. The configuration of the building can be a determining factor here, but in many cases uplighting constitutes the best approach given that swimmers will experience virtually no discomfort glare from the actual luminaire as its outside of their peripheral vision.

This is not without some challenge – ensuring that light bounces off the ceiling and is able to typically achieve 300 lux average means that the floodlight needs to be extremely efficient. Once again, LED is increasingly used here since the technology has advanced to the extent that the necessary output can be readily achieved.

Inevitably given the higher-than-ambient temperatures of the swimming pool environment, maintaining the integrity of the fixture is another critical consideration. Corrosion is an habitual problem of legacy lighting, and often ends up being a spur to investment in new systems. Fortunately, the high quality of contemporary coatings allows many manufacturers to deliver fixtures that offer very rigorous resistance to variable temperature and humidity. Many are also able to supply additional coatings on request, such as those featuring a marine grade compound that might be deployed for coastal or sea-going applications.

Other areas
One of the most notable side-effects of the huge increase in the diversity and quality of LED lighting production over the last few decades is that there is invariably a suitable solution for any given environment. This certainly applies to schools, where LED can also address the problems generated by spaces such as reception and foyer areas, and exterior spaces.

In such general indoor spaces, creating an inviting ambience tends to be the number one priority – for which purpose, neutral white (4000 kelvin) is likely to provide an ideal level. Moreover, modern LED lighting systems make it very easy to achieve the kind of consistent coverage that is desired by most customers.

Extended life-cycle is another advantage, of course – and that's a consideration that is even more acute when one considers exterior lighting requirements such as the illumination of building facades surrounding primary entrance and exit points. Traditionally, 38W 2D fixtures have been selected for this kind of application, with some specifiers still feeling that they can provide the necessary blend of longevity and adequate lighting level.

But the fact is that, even today, such lights can frequently deliver a life-cycle of just 15,000 hours – compared to the 50,000 hours that can be achieved with LED. And that's before one even begins to think about the energy savings, which can be more than 50% straight away from the point of installation.

Long-lasting benefits
It should be evident from this overview that there is very much more to achieving effective schools lighting than simply going LED– or even considerations such as cost-efficiency and lifespan. Overall ambience, glare and integrated control capability must also be prioritised if a new installation is to achieve its full potential.

The fact is that a correctly specified lighting system can also deliver significant –and long-lasting benefits – for the pupils and teachers who use the facilities on a daily basis. In this context, it is worth noting that evidence of LED lighting's impact on health and morale continues to mount up on a yearly basis.

Careful investigation of manufacturers product ranges and provenance is therefore essential – and it stands to reason that those with longer, distinguished histories should be taken most seriously of all. But equally importantly, enlisting the services of a specialist consultant and installer constitutes one of the best ways to ensure that a solution that is right for the school in question is selected.

Schools lighting: primary checklist


  • In the case of sports facilities, it is important to remember that different activities require contrasting lux levels - for example, EN 12193 indicates that 200 lux is suited to most ball sports, while illumination levels of 500-750 lux may well be required for competitions and tournaments. Higher lux levels in this region can also be applicable to non-sporting applications, such as exams and theatrical productions.

  • Glare-free lighting is vital if the negative impact on pupils – who will look up during sports activities on a regular basis – is to be minimised.

  • Deploying LED-based systems with integrated controllers, such as those which utilise the industry-standard DALI protocol, can optimise both energy savings and lighting levels.

  • Immediate reductions in energy usage of 60% can be achieved post-installation of LED - but careful selection of manufacturer and installer/consultant are essential if the investment is to be maximised.

Lighting Journal - School Sports Lighting