The growing interest in using tunable LED lighting systems in classrooms has prompted DOE studies that examine the potential impact on student learning, teacher satisfaction, and associated energy use. Similar to healthcare studies, DOE is focused on analyzing data collected by the lighting system, to better understand how teachers use the controls, and to identify opportunities for optimization of the lighting system. DOE seeks to ensure that advanced lighting technologies reach their full potential for energy savings and other benefits, such as improved control and quality.

Studies conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) seek to document and evaluate existing conditions, conduct photometric and colorimetric field measurements, perform comprehensive reviews of installed lighting systems, design and analyze surveys for pre- and post-installation evaluations, and perform energy analysis of lighting systems, including how circadian metric criteria may affect energy consumption.

Side-by-side photos of classrooms with tunable LED lighting


Emory University Cognitive Empowerment Program

Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology partnered to create the Charlie and Harriet Schaffer Cognitive Empowerment Program facility, which aims to help individuals experiencing mild cognitive impairment maintain their physical and cognitive health, in part through lighting changes that may support retention or relearning of skills. PNNL collaborated with the team, contributing to the lighting design and specification, and observing the progress of the project as the lighting and controls went through final installation and commissioning. This case study documents the issues encountered in the effort to get the lighting and controls systems to operate as intended. It concludes with guidance for design professionals and manufacturers to help avoid problematic complexity in future projects.

A Case Study of Tunable White LED Lighting with Networked Lighting Controls (April 2023)

Folsom Cordova Unified School District

PNNL partnered with the school district and Sacramento Municipal Utility District to document a trial installation of tunable-white LED lighting systems in three classrooms at an elementary school in Folsom, California. The study focuses on illuminance, estimated energy use, spectral power distribution, and related human response metrics.

Folsom Cordova Classroom Tunable Lighting (GATEWAY report, September 2018)
Lessons in the Classroom (Article, May 2019)

Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District

PNNL partnered with the school district in Carrollton, Texas, to document a trial installation of tunable-white LED lighting systems in three classrooms.

Carrollton-Farmers Classroom Tunable Lighting (GATEWAY report, September 2017)
Carrollton-Farmers Classroom Tunable Lighting (GATEWAY brief, September 2017)
Two That Are Tunable (Article, December 2017)


Energy Impacts of Circadian Metrics

PNNL evaluated how well available software tools model light spectrum and intensity within the built environment. These tools are also being used to understand how designing for circadian metrics affects lighting energy consumption in multiple space types.

Energy Impact of Human Health and Wellness Lighting Recommendations for Office and Classroom Applications (Journal article, August 2020)