Educational Spaces 21. Open up!
on-line course


Module 2. Factor 1: naturalness

NATURALNESS: people have some basic expectations concerning space that result from their elementary needs (air, light, safety). In this group, the following factors are crucial for learning:

  • LIGHT – daylight enhances our visual comfort and facilitates visualisation during learning.

Vicinity – the way the school is situated with respect to the elements of natural landscape (e.g. hill, tall trees that prevent light from coming in) and other buildings (e.g. close vicinity of skyscrapers).

Orientation – natural light should reach the classrooms either directly or indirectly.

Windows – they should be large (or even take up the whole wall) to ensure optimal lighting and warmth (in the case of more severe weather conditions). At the same time, we should make sure that proper shading can be provided in IT rooms. Also, avoid making a greenhouse: if there is too much light in poorly ventilated rooms or rooms with no air conditioning, the temperature rises and inhibits concentration.


  • SOUND – proper sound conditions should be ensured so that students can hear the teacher and outside noise is eliminated. Find out more…
  • School location – a buffer zone should be created to protect from noise (e.g. a busy street) via e.g. a school yard or a tree lane. When designing the space, make sure that the classrooms are located in a way that does not distract students.Internal structure – minimising noise inside the building is also very important. The school should include open educational spaces and common rooms (e.g. canteen) which are properly separated from other places (e.g. corridors or toilets as a buffer zone).Rooms – proper acoustics can be ensured by the use of silencing materials (e.g. tiles, flooring). It is worth introducing floor-covering in class, and use screens or sliding doors to separate one part of a given working space from another.


  • TEMPERATURE – keeping the temperature balanced is crucial for optimising learning.
  • Orientation – sunlight should provide warmth in the school building(s), especially in the classrooms (at least 2-3 hours per day). Make sure there are no buildings or objects outside that inhibit natural light. The main educational facilities should be situated south-eastward or south-westward.Structure – inadequate planning can lead to under- or overheating. Sometimes internal walls can be responsible, if not designed well. The building should also have good heat circulation throughout the internal plane.Windows – the bigger the better: there is more light inside the rooms and more heat. Window construction is also important (one, two or three layers). Windows should be appropriate for each room, both in terms of weather conditions and geographical location (sun exposure).


  • AIR QUALITY – access to fresh air is crucial. Humidity should be minimal, odours and pollution should be under control. Find out more…
  • Orientation – natural airflow should guide room design. Fresh air should be available in every classroom. External odour or pollution emission is important, but the location of the school canteen, for instance, with respect to the classrooms is also crucial to prevent food flavours from wandering around the school.Windows – it is worth to plan multi-module windows to increase/decrease ventilation depending on the weather conditions (e.g. smaller modules in the top part of the window in high wind conditions). The design of the building should provide free use of windows to regulate the temperature inside (they should be opened easily).Mechanical ventilation – it is worth using the possibilities of mechanical ventilation. For example, in the so-called passive construction methods, in which
    the window cannot be opened, air circulation is usually provided by means of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. Every hour 70-80% of the air inside the building is replaced so the students and teachers are constantly provided with fresh and clean air in the classrooms.