Tunable Lighting: Mimicking the Natural Progression of Daylight

Tunable Lighting:
Mimicking the Natural Progression of Daylight

Tunable lighting, a dynamic LED technology, plays a crucial role in creating learning environments that support student well-being and academic performance. It offers adjustable color temperatures and intensities that mimic daylight, enhance student health, aid teachers in creating optimal learning environments, and guide student behavior within classrooms.

Health and Well-being

One of the primary ways tunable lighting promotes health is by supporting the synchronization of circadian rhythms. Light can be adjusted throughout the day to help regulate sleep-wake cycles, stimulating alertness during learning hours and fostering better sleep quality at night. These factors may contribute to improved concentration, mood stability, and overall well-being among students and teachers.

Optimizing Learning Environments

Tunable lighting allows educators to customize classroom ambiance according to specific activities and learning needs. For example, cooler tones may be chosen to promote focus and productivity while warmer tones set the stage for relaxed and creative pursuits. In addition to supporting diverse learning styles, this adaptability has been shown to enhance student engagement and academic performance.

Behavior Cues

Research suggests that exposure to specific light wavelengths can positively affect some of the challenging behaviors associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In these cases, tunable lighting can improve social interactions in classrooms and support behavior management.

The positive effects of tunable lighting are still being evaluated. Nonetheless, many educators are already welcoming this technology into their classrooms as part of a holistic program for using LED lighting to create engaging environments.

Four HMFH-designed schools are or will be programmed to include tunable lighting technology:

This new school for 1,755 students includes a total of 25 rooms that incorporate tunable lighting technology. Arlington’s extensive adoption plan for this new technology will offer HMFH the potential for broad and deep post-occupancy evaluation.

Bristol County Agricultural High School is a design-award winning project, notable for its deep sustainability program and unique, hands-on learning environment. Here, tunable lighting supports specialized lab spaces which are part of its Natural Resource Management program.

Bristol-Plymouth is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2026. The school prioritizes health and well-being through multiple initiatives including a healthy material pilot program as well as the implementation of tunable lighting in special education spaces.

Saugus Middle High School is a STEAM-driven, design-award-winning project that has incorporated tunable lighting technology into a total of 10 classrooms. Natural daylight floods the building’s interior and is strategically complemented by tunable lighting technology.

HMFH is committed to designing exceptional schools composed of healthy, sustainable, and environmentally efficient environments. Leveraging the power of daylight is central to our design philosophy and is prioritized throughout every school we serve. And now, tunable lighting offers educators an unprecedented level of control when using light to optimize learning environments, manage classroom behaviors, and promote overall student health and wellbeing. When deployed as part of an overall light management strategy, tunable lighting technology can support transformative outcomes.

Bristol Aggie’s Center for Science and the Environment Wins Grand Prize Award!

Bristol Aggie’s Center for Science and the Environment Wins Grand Prize Award!

Award

Our design of Bristol County Agricultural High School’s Center for Science and the Environment earned a Grand Prize award from Learning by Design for exemplary educational architecture that addresses sustainability and social impact, next-generation learning, effective space planning, and community needs.

Designed as a living learning center, the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE) features a student-curated natural resource museum, a grooming lab, bio-secure labs, flexible classrooms, and a student-planted roof garden. Each space is carefully tailored to accommodate specific program needs with innovative technology, lighting and thermal control, and specialized equipment that enable partnerships with local and national environmental organizations. Sustainable design elements, including green roofs, photovoltaics, and composting toilets, reinforce Bristol Aggie’s curriculum rooted in science and environmental education.

Learning by Design’s Educational Facilities Design Awards highlights successful school projects from early childhood to higher education. The Grand Prize award winners earned special recognition for addressing six critical aspects of a successful learning environment: design challenges and innovation, sustainability and social impact, interior architecture, next-generation learning, effective space planning, and community needs. The CSE demonstrates the concept of architecture as a learning tool—with building systems and sustainable design on display for students, the facility itself has become an integral part of the school’s curriculum.

“The Center for Science and the Environment embodies a commitment to sustainability and hands-on learning. Incorporating green roofs, outdoor learning spaces, and composting toilets, the design reflects the school’s focus on agriculture and the environment.”

Jury Comments | Learning by Design

Suni Dillard Wins AIA Young Architects Award 2024

Suni Dillard Wins AIA Young Architects Award 2024

Award

We are thrilled to announce the recognition of Suni Dillard, Senior Associate and Sustainability Leader, by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for her exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the architecture profession through environmental advocacy, increasing access to great design, and mentoring future architects.

Promoted last year to Senior Associate, Suni is driven by the challenge of socially responsible design that positively impacts both the health of people and the environment.

As a Sustainability Leader guiding HMFH’s Sustainability Committee, Suni empowers her colleagues, clients, and community to set ambitious sustainability goals—which isn’t always easy to prioritize in public projects. Particularly for clients who are undertaking what are likely to be once-in-a-lifetime projects for their communities (like school buildings that will be in use for 50+ years), newly available design and sustainability opportunities aren’t always obvious. This is where Suni encourages them to think holistically and consider how they can take their project steps further to create designs that are environmentally and socially impactful. In her words, she pushes them “to do more than just make a new building.”

With her three co-leaders, Suni and the HMFH Sustainability Committee are creating a framework to navigate design processes in concert with the needs of the environment. In doing so, she wants to remind people that design is not just about aesthetics—that it’s important to think more holistically, understand the context, and include sustainable and social justice in the design. “It’s all one package,” she says. “It’s not just about what the building looks like. Good design will address all of these things.”

Outside of HMFH, Suni continues to champion her mission of combining sustainability and social responsibility with good design. She has led the Carbon Leadership Forum Boston chapter’s education committee since 2020. She also curated the Embodied Carbon Series, which helps AEC professionals understand and apply embodied carbon best practices to their projects to reduce emissions and achieve zero carbon. What began as an online series Suni and a small advisory group developed during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a nationally-recognized course and a staple of AIA University.

Notably, Suni prioritizes sharing her experiences and knowledge with the rising generation of future architects.

“It’s important for people to understand that they have options to navigate and that they need to learn how to advocate for themselves.” For Suni, mentoring is about more than just listening to questions and offering advice. She sees it as her responsibility to bring those questions to places she now gets to participate in as a Senior Associate—back to where the decision-makers are. Looking ahead, this is what Suni sees for the future of the architecture profession: education. In all directions.

“Going forward, my goal is to continue educating clients, people in the profession, and the general public to think more critically about how we function as architects. As an industry, we all have to figure out how to do better and design on a holistic level to positively impact the community and the environment. It won’t be just about doing business as usual.”

Suni Dillard | Senior Associate and Sustainability Leader, HMFH Architects