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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

Light, Ventilation, and Design Features in School Design

An institutional space requires maximum optimization of light and ventilation. Schools require open, bright places and the best design uses the benefits of natural lighting and ventilation. As a school predominantly functions only during the daytime, daylight, and wind can be enough for the students, depending on the design of the spaces. This lessens the use of electricity and overall makes a positive impact on the environment.

List of Contents

  1. Orientation

  2. Openings

  3. Jaali Walls

  4. Shading Devices

  5. Trees - a natural shading device

  6. Courtyards in Schools

  7. Natural Ventilation

  8. Regulation of Wind Flow

  9. Colour

  10. Pre- Primary and Primary classrooms

  11. Secondary and Higher Secondary

  12. Colours for the Interiors

  13. Signage

  14. Milestone Signage

  15. Labeling of Blocks

  16. Conclusion


The illustration depicts the use of north light for daylighting in schools.
The Illustration Depicts the Use of North Light for Daylighting in Schools.

Buildings elongated along the east-west axis allow maximum daylight from the north. North light is less harsh and less harmful to humans and so is suitable during school hours. If the buildings have longer facades perpendicular to the east-west direction, the chances of the building getting heated up is higher, because of the sun’s rays falling on the longer sides.


Horizontal louvers in a verandah for light penetration into the classrooms
Horizontal Louvres in a Verandah for Light Penetration into the Classrooms

Windows, skylights, and all walls can be used instead of full-height masonry walls, to bring in ample daylight and ventilation within the spaces. This reduces the use and expense involved in providing artificial lighting and combats the effects of heat produced through electrical lights.

Jaali Walls

Apart from the use of windows and other openings the use of cost-effective methods like jaali walls, can be more impactful. It allows air to flow within the room through its openings thus ventilating the rooms, making the interiors more comfortable. Jaali walls can also be a source for light to enter, providing interesting patterns and play of light and shadow. The use of Jaali also elements big openings and provides privacy to the interior spaces.

Illustration showing brick jaali walls in classrooms.
Illustration Showing Brick Jaali Walls in Classrooms.

Shading Devices

Exterior sunshades act as shading devices and prevent sunlight from falling directly, avoiding glare and sending uniform light into the rooms. Sunshades are generally provided over openings like windows and doors, though it is advisable to construct a continuous sunshade along the entire wall as it helps in avoiding absorption and transfer of heat through the walls. Shading devices aren't just functional but can be aesthetically pleasing while creating a unique facade or view.

The continuous sunshade will protect the windows as well as walls from sun and rain.
The Continuous Sunshade Will Protect the Windows as Well as Walls From Sun and Rain.

Trees - a natural shading device

Trees and shrubs are natural shading elements. Growing creepers on the south walls of the buildings will avoid harsh direct sunlight from entering the rooms. They also absorb the heat from the outside allowing for a much cooler inside. In schools, the addition of trees imparts a close relationship with nature for the students. Thus the positioning of trees in the layout plays an important role in the school.

Trees will protect the building from the hot sun making the interiors cool
Trees Will Protect the Building From the Hot Sun Making the Interiors Cool

Courtyards in Schools

Having internal courtyards facilitates the natural movement of air within these spaces, thus aiding cross-ventilation. It also acts as a light well in buildings with a floor-wise design. Courtyards are perfect for institutes as they provide ample space between the classrooms. Instead of a regular corridor, courtyards provide a multifunction space. These spaces can be used for discussions, gatherings, workshops, and more. It is a great addition to informal spaces while in the safety of the institution. Playgrounds and assembly areas are designated in these courtyards.

Provision of a courtyard to aid in ventilation.
Provision of a Courtyard to Aid in Ventilation.

Natural Ventilation

Warm air is light and hence rises up. Cool air which is heavy, enters the space left by the warm air within a room. This helps in having wind movement. Appropriate openings at the top of the room, or at the roof level, will allow rising warm air to escape, bringing in prevailing cooler winds into the rooms. This will help in keeping the rooms well-ventilated as well as in maintaining cooler temperatures inside.

Illustrations showing openings at the roof level for effective ventilation
Illustration Showing Openings at the Roof Level for Effective Ventilation

Regulation of Wind Flow

Illustration showing verandahs, openings at the roof, window, and door openings for ventilation purposes
Illustration Showing Verandahs, Openings at the Roof, Window, and Door Openings for Ventilation Purposes

The position of openings plays an important role in the school design. The openings should be in the windward direction for the air to get inside, as well as on the opposite wall, for the air to get out. This ensures cross-ventilation and air movement within the spaces. In a tropical climate like Kerala, with high humidity, air movement gives thermal comfort. This is why, while standing on the beach under the hot sun, one does not feel the heat due to the flow of wind.


Depiction of various colours in schools
Depiction of Various Colours in Schools

The interior of a school makes a great influence on the learning experience of a child. Using colour as a design technique has a psychological effect on children. Colour and light can affect them on a cognitive and physical level. It affects the mood, attention, creativity, feeling of safety and comfort levels in a space.

Effects of colour on Spaces
Effects of Colour on Spaces

Pre- Primary and Primary classrooms

Young children find high contrast or bright colours like orange and yellow stimulating. Yellow increases adrenaline levels, improving the spirit of learning new concepts.

Colours in the interiors of schools
Pre-primary and Primary Classroom Colours

Secondary and Higher Secondary

Adolescent children respond to colours such as blue and green, as they are less distracting and stress-inducing. The colour red is said to increase both aggression and appetite and therefore is not widely used in schools.

Secondary and higher secondary classroom colours
Secondary and Higher Secondary Classroom Colours

Colours for the Interiors

Colours in School Interiors
  • Using light colour shades for the interiors makes the room bright with just daylight. Using dark colours on walls may make the room dull leading to improper vision for the students.

  • Ceilings or upper portions of the wall could be white to aid in providing good lighting.

  • Colours in the front of rooms behind marker boards and projection screens should be darker than in other areas to reduce light reflections.


Signage in Schools
Signage in Schools

The necessity of signage in schools is to orient the children, staff and also the public within a school layout. Signage will help direct them from one space to another, also giving information about all the rooms in that space, activity spaces and other amenities available in the school. These can be represented by labelling the buildings, showing maps, routes, and milestones that can be installed within the campus. The most important blocks that can be mentioned in a school layout may be, entry, and exit points, administration blocks, classroom blocks, toilet facilities, parking etc.

‘You Are Here’ maps at the corridor and entrance of the school
‘You Are Here’ Maps at the Corridor

‘You Are Here’ maps at the corridor and entrance of the school
‘You Are Here’ Maps at the Entrance

“You Are Here” maps can be installed within the campus of the school to help orient students, teachers and visitors. These maps can be at the entrances, corridors, and at other gathering points within the campus. This can also be a learning exercise to help children read and understand maps, improving their spatial reasoning skills.

Signage to direct the students to different classrooms
Signage to Direct the Students to Different Classroom

Signage can also be represented on boards, walls, corridors, floors etc. This can be done by mentioning the destination along with the distance. For example, the music room is 20 metres away from the classroom. This will help the students to have an awareness of the distances and measurements.

Milestone Signage

Milestones are one of the methods of signage in schools. Visually well-located milestones can act as guides for children to know the distances between various spaces from different points located within the school premises. It can be given along pathways, corridors, and junctions and help children to plan the shortest route to the destination. The signage can also be depicted on the structure of the building or elements like columns, dustbins, seats etc.

Milestone signage in schools
Milestone Signage in Schools

Labelling of Blocks

Labelling of different spaces, buildings, and blocks, indoors and outdoors can be done within the school. It is an effective way of helping children locate and relate themselves to their environment.

Labels in Schools
Labels in Schools


A school is almost like a second home for many young people, it is a building that sees generations of people coming and going. Hence, the design process must be the most ideal for the users and site. Proper optimization of natural features such as wind, daylight and more must be done to the fullest.

For more articles, visit the following links:

  1. Planning and Designing of Service Blocks in a School

  2. Getting Into The Basics of Designing a Classroom

  3. Site Considerations in the Ideal School Design

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