Photo by: School for Health

School buildings and student success

10/05/2017 | Healthy Buildings

In this report, the Healthy Buildings team at Harvard Chan School illuminates how the school building influences the student’s health, thinking and performance. The report incorporates findings from over 200 research studies and considers over 70 health outcomes related to school buildings.

By the time a student graduates high school, they will have spent more than 15,000 hours in a school building, which is the second longest indoor exposure time after their home. For more than 50 million K-12 students enrolled in fall of 2015, this is a time of critical physiological, social, and emotional growth and development, which is susceptible to many indoor conditions including, indoor air pollution, mold, elevated noise levels, radon, asbestos, inadequate lighting and more.

Key findings

  • Research  from the team found ambient air pollution and access to green space to be associated with chronic absenteeism in Massachusetts’ public schools.
  • Inadequate ventilation has repeatedly been found to affect student health, thinking and performance. Low ventilation rates have been associated with asthma symptoms, absenteeism from respiratory infections, more frequent nurse visits, fatigue, impaired attention span and poorer performance on math and reading tests.
  • Noisy environments have greater impacts on children’s comprehension, speech, memory and other cognitive processes than adults due their developing language skills.
  • Access to natural daylight through windows, increased time spent outdoors, and higher illuminance levels in the classroom have been associated with improved sleep quality and reduced symptoms of headache, depression, nearsightedness, and eyestrain.

Authors include Erika Eitland, Piers MacNaughton, Memo Cedeno Laurent, John Spengler, Aaron Bernstein, and Joseph Allen.

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