Shining a Light on High-Performance Education Facilities

American Heritage

Well-placed windows and lights improve student comfort and accomplishment

American Heritage

Large windows provide views to the outdoors at American Heritage School

At Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA), we design with sustainability in mind, knowing that what we do today will have an impact on future generations. Designing high-performing and energy-efficient buildings not only improves our clients’ bottom line over the life cycle of their building, but also has an immediate impact in providing a cleaner and healthier environment in which to live, work, and learn.

Daylighting – the use of properly designed windows, skylights and full-spectrum lighting for natural lighting and temperature regulation – has been researched, documented, and accepted as a best practice in successful architecture, and especially in architecture for education facilities.


Clerestory windows at Clear Horizons Academy provide abundant daylight

The benefits of daylighting are plentiful. Proper daylighting prevents glare, overly dim areas, and excessively bright spaces. It improves visual comfort, enhances learning capacity, boosts learning retention, and increases energy efficiency.

A 2015 study published in the Building and Environment Journal found that choices in K-12 architecture, such as lighting, can affect a student’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25 percent. A 2003 study cited by the U.S. Department of Education, found that classrooms with the most daylight had a 20 percent better learning rate in math and 26 percent improved rate in reading compared to classrooms with little to no natural light. 

American Heritage School

Windows, atriums, skylights, and light wells are located strategically throughout American Heritage Schools

Other data suggests that windows with outdoor natural views can lower the stress and mental fatigue of students and improve the productivity of teachers.

CMA’s Curtis Livingston, Project Architect and specialist in K-12 architecture, recently completed a video production with Canyons School District and Solatube to educate the community on daylighting. Canyons SD has committed to high-performance buildings since its inception. They inherited aging schools built in the 60s and 70s, and quickly committed to high-performance renovations and new facilities.


Well-designed windows and light fixtures create a playful, comfortable environment at Pinedale Elementary

“Learning can only happen in an environment where children feel cared for, secure and comfortable,” says CSD’s Facilities Director Rick Conger in the District’s article on Healthy Schools.

CMA is excited to work with the District on 18 schools throughout the Salt Lake Valley, in areas such as Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Sandy, and Midvale. By working with the District over the next few years to dramatically improve daylighting features, we are shining a (natural) light on high-performance education facilities.