Light Bureau: An Education in Lighting at Alexandra Infant School
Light Bureau has an on-going role to provide architectural lighting design services for the schools on-going improvement program; the previous phase completed in 2009 and consisted of a new nursery, library and classroom. Phase 2 includes the main hall and reading area and is arguably the most important and most used part of the school, receiving the most day-to-day use.
The geometry of the hall is similar to that of the nursery in the previous phase – a large square room with an unusual, pyramidal ceiling. At the top of the ceiling there is a new lantern light, but as this is the only source of natural light to the large space, an effective lighting solution was extremely important.
The hall is a multi-function space; they have assemblies, lunch, sports and any number of other activities in this room. Light Bureau wanted to avoid any bright sources as users look up when holding sports events, also nothing which could be damaged by ball sports etc. To facilitate the different needs of the users, a variable lighting solution was considered important.
Light Bureau’s preferred approach is always to integrate the lighting into the architecture and for the hall project, a perfect opportunity was identified. There is a horizontal ‘I’ beam spanning all four elevations below the pyramidal soffit and the designers deemed this to be deep enough to incorporate a continuous uplight. By adding a shallow painted timber up-stand, a pelmet was created into which a continuous overlapping fluorescent batten system was installed. Light Bureau’s Paul Traynor said: “further enhancement was conceived on site with the idea of running the new ceiling straight into the ‘I’ beam, creating a more optimal angle of distribution and thus efficient and even light output. This is the sole source of electric lighting to the hall and the result is excellent; bright, glare-free lighting and very uniform in quality so that the whole space is equally well lit”.
In an adjacent area, a perimeter pelmet source is used to wash down on the sunny yellow finished doors and to the bamboo-clad sloping ceiling in this space, a suspended linear pendant from Fagerhult has been used to supplement the concealed sources.
The reading area between the hall and school entrance is somewhat of a bonus, having been created from what was originally just circulation space. Now there are bookcases and low reading tables. One of the most popular activities in this space is phonics reading groups, which is a well-respected teaching method for infants and juniors. By simple addition of pelmet boxes to existing bulkheads, Light Bureau has again achieved a pleasant, bright environment by use of simple batten sources. A handful of LED spotlights, each 3 Watt rated are fitted and directed at the bookcases to provide emphasis and accent.
To maximise flexibility and of course, to minimise energy consumption, a daylight / dimming system is included. All light sources utilise DALI digital gear. As in the previous phase, Light Bureau specified a simple rack mounted 4 channel control system from Zumtobel. The system effectively commissions itself on powering up and scenes, daylight sensitivity and levels are accessed from the momentary action switches. When switches are activated, a daylight sensor fitted to the north facing sloping soffit determines to what level each luminaire group should dim to and trim power appropriately. The users can also dim up and down as preferred with the momentary switching.
The finished result is a resounding success. Alexandra Infant’s Head teacher, Rachel Hollis had this to say of the lighting improvements: “the lighting has had such a positive impact on the pupil’s learning environment. Visitors to the school from the teaching community literally can’t believe how big an impact the refurbishment and new lighting have had on the space, it’s truly unique”.
Light Bureau is very pleased to have supported the Head Teacher’s aspirations in achieving this outcome.
Client: Alexandra Infant School
Interior Designer: Ros Jones
Main Suppliers: Zumtobel Lighting, Fagerhult Lighting, Mike Stoane Lighting, Encapsulite
Photographs: Paul Traynor, Light Bureau
Light Bureau is an independent lighting design consultancy based in London. Established as indigo light planning in 1999, the practice has become one of Europe's leading creative lighting consultancies.
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