Lighting design engineers look at LED lighting advancements in K-12 schools

New LED advancements provide a level of capability that previously had been inaccessible to school facilities. PBA and Illuminart explore the evolution of lighting from incandescent to LED

By Robert White, Darko Banfic, and Scott Peck August 2, 2021

Today, LED lighting is often required in most new and renovation projects. Besides offering the obvious reductions in energy consumption and maintenance, LED systems continue to provide new and additional benefits. Previous leaps in the evolution of lighting technologies, outweighed the sacrifices that always came with its use. However, pre-electric times aside, the improved light sources always attempted to mimic the old faithful incandescent lamps. high intensity discharge lamps (HID), offered high lumens/watt efficacy, but with a poor color rendering index (CRI), inconsistent correlated color temperature (CCT), and an inability to turn on instantly; not to mention the noise, heat, and bulky hardware required to make it all work. Fluorescents continued with struggling CCT consistency and questionable CRI. Dimming was considered a ‘specialty.’ Neither of these advanced technologies were ideal, and drove lighting products to physically larger, bulky designs.

LED lighting has advanced significantly enough that we now have a light source that can mimic the characteristics of incandescent lights without sacrificing quality and aesthetics. We can turn them on/off instantaneously, without sacrificing life by frequent on/off switching. We can also dim LEDs while simultaneously lowering CCT, just as we could with incandescent. Like incandescent, LED retrofit lightbulbs are available in frosted or clear versions that include visible filaments. Two items that technology still needs to improve are bulky drivers for LEDS reminiscent of ballasts, and the flicker often associated with dimming.

While there may always be a place for a variety of 2×4 light fixtures in classrooms, the LED versions are thinner, lighter, easier to install, visually more comfortable, and far more energy efficient than the traditional versions. Much like the explosion in technological advances with LEDs, manufacturers continue to expand the extensive types of LED products that are available to consumers.

Educational facilities are all about learning and inspiring curious minds. LED systems provide an opportunity to support such environments by helping us create visually intriguing spaces. Media centers, collaborative/common spaces, vestibules, exterior facades to name a few, can be designed much like non-educational venues. For example: commercial theaters, entertainment centers, museums, and other commercial/public spaces. Such spaces often required combinations of HID (for performance) and incandescent or fluorescent, to accommodate dimming, accent lighting and life safety instant-on requirements. Some of these functions can be combined using LEDs. Today, there are multiple shapes, colors, lighting distribution and dimming options to choose from that enhance the visual appeal and function of such spaces, making them more interesting and appropriate for evolving age groups.

While LED technology evolves, education facilities also require adaptability. Students with special needs may require rooms with a broad range of lighting functions; with each human condition requiring a different set of lighting preferences.

Multiple layers of LED lights with good optical control, combined with programmable digital lighting controls, can provide educators with the flexibility required to accommodate many unanticipated conditions. Spaces can also be partitioned into bright-to-dark versus areas of active-to-calming. Moreover, window shading can be used for complete black-out needs for nap time or for presentations, for example.

LED and controls technology simplify the ability to make lighting changes throughout the day, either automatically or manually.

New LED advancements provide a level of capability that previously had been inaccessible to school facilities. Educating administrators and the design community, in the complexities of LED systems will help them better prioritize decisions when designing education facilities.

Lighting designers and engineers that are informed and experienced, can provide guidance to the right LED system solutions for facility or spatial needs.


This article originally appeared on Peter Basso Associates websitePeter Basso Associates is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at

Author Bio: Robert White, IALD, LC, IESNA, Darko Banfic, LC, IES and Scott Peck, PE