Las Vegas school district bets big on daylighting to improve student test scores

There are studies that suggest students in classrooms with the most daylight progress further on math and reading tests in one year's time than those in classrooms with the least amount of daylight. Such statistics spurred the Clark County School District in Las Vegas to apply daylighting technology to Fay Herron Elementary School in North Las Vegas, in order to help raise student test scores while simultaneously increasing energy efficiency and cost savings.

The project, completed in 2007, comprises more than 300 21-inch SolaMaster solar-reflective tubes from Solatube International built into the roofs of the 12 buildings on the K-5 campus, with dampers controlled by Square D Clipsal lighting control keypads and light-level sensors. The sensors work in concert with Square D Clipsal Area Lighting Panels to turn on artificial lights when there is not enough daylight to meet the district's 50-footcandle light level mandate, and off when there is enough. The keypads allow artificial lights to be turned off and the damper closed for an hour to accommodate video presentations, and turned back on again easily if the presentation is less than an hour. The daylighting design was developed, in part, by Professional Design Associates, Henderson, Nev., which was retained by prime consultant Petty & Associates, Sparks, Nev.

Along with increased academic performance, it's expected that the measures will also reduce the electrical load dedicated to lighting by 50%, according to Paul Gerner, Clark County School District associate superintendent for facilities.

“Lighting is a significant heat load, which affects the HVAC system and the cooling load,” he says. “Being able to daylight without importing heat into the building allowed us to downsize our chiller by 40 tons.”

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