The history of school design presents an interesting perspective of changing attitudes towards daylight and view. By the 1960s windows were considered an ‘operational nuisance.’ The prestigious Michigan study is an excellent example of biased, poorly-executed research which, even so, had a lasting influence. Later, a rare convergence of forces enabled the first large study of daylighting impacts on student learning, which was transformational for school design.

Two follow-on studies confirmed and refined the significance of all aspects of the indoor environment for student performance, and also highlighted ‘the war’ that often wages in schools between teachers and building managers. The more detailed window characteristics considered in the Fresno study had two to six times the predictive power compared to the Capistrano Study, but its findings were more complex, showing interactions with thermal comfort, ventilation, and acoustics.

The controversy continues over whether these findings are of a magnitude to warrant policy changes in school design. However, it is important to recognize that many other major educational investments are made with far less evidence, and have higher costs and shorter-term impacts. It is also interesting to note that there is mounting evidence that daylight and view have positive effects not only for elementary education, which has been easier to study, but also for adolescent and adult education.