If studies done over the past couple decades hold true, taking advantage of natural light in architecture is ideal for not only improving comfort levels and energy savings, but also improving occupant performance and productivity. Research on natural light in schools, for instance, suggests children learn faster and do better on standardized tests in classrooms with more daylight. Reports also have indicated that learning rates go up in day-lit classrooms. So, if children are indeed the future, and natural light—made possible by the abundant use of glass—can enhance their learning abilities, why would we, as a society, not take every possible effort to ensure their success?

It has been nearly four months since the devastating Newtown, Conn., shootings. It was a tragedy that we will not forget and we’re still mourning the losses of so many. Since that tragic day, many jurisdictions and school boards have raised concern over the safety levels of schools throughout the country. How can we ensure a safe, sound and secure learning environment for our future leaders, doctors, scientists? For some, the question to answer has been this: should glass and windows simply be removed from schools? For some, that’s not an easy one to answer.

Limiting, reducing or eliminating glass usage in schools could absolutely change the way be which schools are today designed and built. Looking back, I remember my high school was close to windowless. Some classrooms had a couple small openings, while others had none whatsoever. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now I can recall many of those classrooms seeming very closed in.

Chilton High School, in Chilton, Wis., is an example of how one school is taking advantage of natural light. Photo credit: Energy Center of Wisconsin
Chilton High School, in Chilton, Wis., is an example of how one school is taking advantage of natural light. Photo credit: Energy Center of Wisconsin

Over the years, however, as glass and glass technologies have evolved, so, too, has the way architects design schools. Many newly constructed schools around the country take full advantage of glass. And just because glass is a significant building material it absolutely does not mean the schools will be any less safe had they been constructed predominantly of brick and mortar. Those advancing glazing technologies have also brought stronger glass and window products; safety films are available; hardware systems, too, have evolved. Yes, you can have glass, natural light and beautiful aesthetics while still providing a safe, productive environment.

This is a topic the architectural design and construction industry cannot ignore; I expect to see more and more discussions raised, from codes and standards to building trends of the future. Is it a topic about which you’ve thought? As always, your feedback on the matter is welcome. Share your thoughts below or email me at erogers@glass.com.



  1. Excellent work and blog post Ellen!

  2. People feel safe when there is a lot of glass in a building and the security people like it too. The glass provides a clear vision and does not allow the people with bad intentions to achieve an element of surprise. Glass technology is always improving so can be much more sophisticated then a just an opening when the proper products are specified and used properly.

  3. Very informative blog..Thanks Ellen

  4. I appreciate this topic as a parent and an a glazing engineering perspective. JEI Structural Engineers are experts in design calculations and have worked on many schools with fantastic glass views. I believe this trend will impact our educational system in a positive way; as students see excellence displayed around them and have a sense their school is modern with a futuristic appeal.

    It will be interesting to see how concerns about school violence impact blast mitigation. In any case, we’re ready to serve and enjoy working with new materials that make life brighter and safer for us all.

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