K-12 Lighting Toolkit

K-12 schools can save up to 50% on energy use if they optimize their lighting equipment and operations.[1] School equipment replacement and operating costs drive the decision-making for infrastructure investments. Lighting is one of those investments where the ROI is attractive and visible, often the first step in major school energy efficiency upgrades. Nationally, schools have reduced lighting energy consumption by an average of 5% from 2003-2012 according to the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Surveys.[2] Many of these upgrades include lighting retrofits to highly-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) technology. There are additional energy and cost savings opportunities with new lighting technologies, controls, and design considerations.

This toolkit covers a wide range of technical implementation details, case studies, specifications, and more on lighting technologies in K-12 schools. There are resources on new technologies for the classroom like tunable lighting and adaptive controls for parking lot lighting. Other resources cover various interior and exterior spaces like auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums, and pedestrian walkways. Leveraging these outstanding results and strategies, the K-12 Lighting Toolkit provides some best practices for implementing energy-efficient lighting in schools.

Jump to: Webinars/Videos | Fact Sheets | Guidance | Reports | Case Studies | Specifications

The bulk of these resources come from the Better Buildings Initiative, which partners with leading businesses, manufacturers, cities, states, universities, and school districts who pledge to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and infrastructure through voluntary commitments like the Better Buildings Challenge 10-year, 20% reduction goal. As of 2018, more than 350 Better Buildings Challenge partners have saved $3.1 billion since the start of the program. Additional resources are provided by the DOE Solid-State Lighting Program, an initiative to drive research and development of innovative LED technologies through strong partnerships that is on track to reduce electricity consumption for lighting 75% by 2035.


Presentations of information from reports, case studies, or fact sheets. 

  • Bright Idea: Lighting Toolkit for K-12 School Districts 
    Review comprehensive lighting guidance for K-12 schools along with an overview of the newest lighting technologies and strategies for classroom optimization and proficiency to help school energy managers use the best available applications for their buildings. 

  • LED Lighting in a Performing Arts Building
    This is a webcast of LED architectural and theatrical lighting in four academic and performance-related spaces.

  • Pedestrian-Friendly Nighttime Lighting 
    This webinar presents the types of communities and spaces that should consider pedestrian-friendly outdoor lighting; what pedestrian-friendly lighting looks like; the basic principles of glare control, color, and visibility; and metrics.

  • Educational Video Series: Lighting Controls Technologies & Requirements 
    Sensors and controls can achieve significant energy savings by automatically adjusting lighting based on time of day, available task needs, daylight, occupancy, and electricity supply or cost. This video series provides an overview of available control strategies and how to integrate them into a space to meet and exceed code. Topics covered include technology-specific requirements, mandatory and prescriptive requirements for indoor and outdoor lighting controls, and relevant forms and tables related to lighting control systems.

  • Princeton University and DOE GATEWAY Demonstrations 
    This video provides features LED lighting replacement projects at Princeton University, which has dramatically reduced energy costs in a eight installations around campus and achieved over 300,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) in energy savings in four years.

  • Princeton's Dillon Gymnasium 
    This video features the measurable benefits of LED lighting in Dillon Gymnasium at Princeton University and describes the challenges of the installation, which included the need for a custom interface so the unique control applications for sports activities can operate within the manufacturer's controls ecosystem. LED retrofits alone will save approximately 67,000 kWh annually, with the inclusion of lighting controls saving an additional 42,000 kWh annually.

Fact Sheets

Simplified, basic information on various lighting technologies and applications.

  • LED Troffer Retrofit Lighting and Controls Best Practices 
    This fact sheet provides guidance for retrofitting fluorescent troffers, including the LED and associated control options available, the pros and cons of each option, and agency specific requirements (where applicable). 

  • Upgrading Troffer Luminaires to LED 
    This fact sheet provides technical information on the various factors such as initial costs, operating costs, current light levels, and dimming required to consider when deciding on an LED upgrade for a fluorescent troffer system.

  • LED Color Stability
    This fact sheet explains LED color stability. The color stability of LEDs varies from product to product and potentially for the same product used in different applications. Properly communicating about color shift, understanding why and when it can occur, and appropriately monitoring performance can help lead to a successful, long-lived installation.

  • Lifetime and Reliability 
    As with many performance attributes, LEDs have the potential to best other technologies in terms of longevity, but choosing the right product requires some understanding of expected failure mechanisms, lifetime, reliability, and serviceability, as well as asking the right application-specific questions.

  • High-Efficiency Parking Structure Lighting Fact Sheet 
    This fact sheet provides an overview of the Better Buildings Alliance Lighting & Electrical Technology Research team’s product specification for high-efficiency fluorescent, induction, and LED lighting systems in parking structures, including recommendations for controls and daylighting practices, which can lead to even greater energy savings.

  • Understanding LM-79 Reports 
    LM-79 testing captures performance characteristics of products that feature SSL technology, including LEDs. This data is required by voluntary labeling programs such as LED Lighting Facts and ENERGY STAR®.

  • Lighting For Schools 
    Daylighting can be effective and energy efficient for almost all school spaces, including classrooms, cafeterias, offices, shops, gyms, pools, corridors, locker rooms, and study halls. 


Recommended practices for implementing high-performing products

  • Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings: Achieving Zero Energy
    This guide provides user-friendly guidance for achieving a zero energy K-12 school building. It establishes a set of energy performance goals and applies to all sizes and classifications of K-12 school buildings (elementary, middle, high). Space types covered include administrative and office space, classrooms, hallways, restrooms, gymnasiums and multipurpose rooms, libraries, and food preparation and dining areas.

  • Gymnasium LED Design Guide 
    Lighting Design Lab/Northwest Lighting Network created this design guide, which reviews the opportunity, design considerations, and controls strategy for LED high-bay luminaires in gymnasiums.

  • GATEWAY Dimming Report 
    This report reviews existing building applications where LED lamps are replacing installed incandescent and halogen lamps for energy savings and longer life, making it necessary to determine whether a specific make and model of LED lamp will meet expectations when controlled by the installed dimming system(s). 

  • ASHRAE Design Guide for K-12 Schools - 50% Energy Savings
    This guide provides information on integrated design, including best practices, as a necessary component in achieving 50% energy savings over minimum code requirements of ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004. A chapter on benchmarking and EUI energy targets can be used by teams who do not wish to follow the specific energy-saving recommendations.


Detailed information on lighting technology, application, or end-use.

  • Linear LED Lamps: Application and Interoperability Evaluation 
    The California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) collaborated with the Emerging Technologies group at the Pacific Gas & Electric Company to evaluate LED lamps in a variety of fixture applications as well as identify any interoperability issues. The goal of this project was to evaluate LED lamps intended to replace equivalent linear fluorescent systems when operating under real-world conditions expected of commercial retrofits and in fixtures other than recessed troffers.

  • GATEWAY Long-Term Evaluation Report 
    The evaluations reported here demonstrate that the success of any lighting implementation cannot only be determined by a simple review of technical performance data, but instead depends on full consideration of the individual project goals and priorities: control, energy and operational savings, and performance characteristics.

  • CALiPER Snapshot Report: Troffers 
    This report is designed to help retailers, distributors, designers, utilities, energy efficiency programs, and other stakeholders understand the current state of LED troffer product performance, as well as trends over time.

  • CALiPER Snapshot: Linear Lamps (TLEDs) 
    A report using LED Lighting Facts data to examine the current state of the market for TLEDs – LED replacements for linear fluorescent lamps.

  • CALiPER Snapshot: Indoor LED Luminaires 
    The five types of luminaires (downlights, industrial ambient luminaires, track heads, troffers, and linear fixtures) discussed in detail in this Snapshot Report are used in a broad range of interior lighting applications. The specific lighting products are intended to meet a variety of needs in different applications, which contributes to the diversity of performance. 

  • CALiPER Snapshot: Outdoor Area Lighting 
    A report using LED Lighting Facts data to examine the current state of the market for outdoor area lighting.

  • CALiPER Snapshot: Downlights 
    The Snapshot report uses LED Lighting Facts data to examine the state of the market for LED downlights.

  • Color Maintenance Report 
    This report discusses the metrics used for communicating color shift and provides guidance for end users on how to monitor chromaticity and what to look for in manufacturer warranties.

  • Use of Occupancy Sensors in LED Parking Lot and Garage Applications 
    This report describes actual experiences from field installations of occupancy sensor-controlled LED lighting at two parking structures and two parking lots, resulting in 45% energy savings.

  • Pedestrian Lighting Report 
    This is a report on two pedestrian-focused projects at sites where the pedestrian-scale lighting needed improvement: Stanford University in California and the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. The results from these projects reveal that pedestrians may have different criteria and priorities than drivers, especially in areas where cars are subordinate to bicycles and users on foot.

Case Studies

Detailed project-specific information. 

  • Tuning the Light in Classrooms: Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District
    This report summarizes the results from a trial installation of LED lighting systems in three classrooms at the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in Carrollton, Texas that is expected to achieve energy savings of 58%.

  • UC Davis Smart Lighting Initiative 
    The UC Davis Smart Lighting Initiative was established in 2010 to improve the quality and efficiency of both indoor and outdoor lighting on campus. The initiative's primary goal is to reduce UC Davis's electricity use for lighting by 60%, based on 2007 levels of energy use.

  • Campus Illumination: University of Washington 
    This roadmap is a guide to sustainable exterior lighting at the University of Washington Seattle Campus. The roadmap approach envisions a dramatic decrease in outdoor lighting energy consumption on campus through the steps listed in the guide while supporting a comprehensive understanding of sustainability that encompasses the human experience, ecological impact, maintainability and energy efficiency.

  • Evaluation of an LED Retrofit Project at Princeton University's Carl Icahn Laboratory 
    The Carl Icahn Laboratory of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics is the first building-wide interior LED project at Princeton University, which met the challenge with a unique, curved, two-story glass curtain wall and external shading structures. Projected annual energy savings from the project is about 37%, with an additional 25% savings expected from the implementation of further control solutions. 

  • Exterior LED Lighting Projects at Princeton University 
    DOE studied a series of implemented projects at Princeton University to document their experiences with solid-state lighting (SSL) and how their approach to SSL projects evolved as their own learning expanded and as the products available improved. The annual energy savings for the four exterior SSL projects described in the report is expected to increase to 82%.

  • University of Florida Case Study: LED Lighting in a Performing Arts Building 
    The LED solutions combined with dimming controls received high marks from instructors, students, and performers and reduced energy use by 68% at a demonstration of solid-state lighting (SSL) technology in the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.

  • University of Maryland Case Study: LED Lighting in a Performing Arts Center 
    In the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, a LED module retrofit reduces maintenance and energy while retaining lighting quality, resulting in approximately 80% energy savings.

  • DELTA Publication: LED Lighting in a Campus Building 
    This case study from the Demonstration and Evaluation of Lighting Technologies and Applications (DELTA) program highlights a lighting demonstration and evaluation for specification changes at Sienna College in Loudonville, New York, from the originally specified fluorescent lighting to all LEDs in classrooms, meeting rooms, and academic department offices, resulting in 33% energy savings. 

  • Institutional-Level Adaptive Control Systems for Interior Lighting
    These best practices offer lighting control solutions that incorporate exterior light points (i.e., pathways, building perimeters, parking lots, and roadways) into one smart, wireless system on the UC Davis campus. 

  • DELTA Snapshot: Classroom Lighting 
    A snapshot of a classroom lighting demonstration in seven schools across New York State that evaluated the lighting needs in classroom environments where teachers are increasingly using audio-visual projections. The demonstrated Integrated Classroom Lighting System (ICLS) provides two lighting modes with controls technology to facilitate a teacher switching between modes, resulting in an average of 38% energy savings across all locations.

  • DELTA Publication: Hudson Valley Community College 
    This publication evaluates a lighting scheme for computer classrooms with two different arrangements of computers in the Bulmer Telecommunications and Computer Center at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York that resulted in cost savings ranging from about $440 up to $3,300 annually per classroom.


Minimum performance requirements for high-efficacy products.