Photo by: Pixabay user akshayapatra

School buildings and dormitories can have an impact on both students’ health and their ability to learn.


Why it Matters: Many of the nation’s public schools are housed in buildings that are in need of renovation, and may lack air conditioning. A large number of those buildings are located near highways or other areas with poor air quality, or in urban areas with little green space. The combined effects of the indoor and outdoor environments that students experience can hinder learning.

Air Quality: Poor ventilation can affect student health, thinking, and performance. Reduced ventilation rates are associated with asthma symptoms, absenteeism from respiratory infections, fatigue, impaired attention span, and poorer performance on math and reading tests.

Noisy Environments: Children are still developing their comprehension, speech, memory and other cognitive processes. Excess noise can harm that development, which has a deeper impact on young students than on adults.

Daylight: Access to natural daylight through windows, increased time spent outdoors, and higher illuminance levels in the classroom are associated with improved sleep quality and reduced symptoms of headache, depression, nearsightedness, and eyestrain.

Green Space: A study of 1,772 public schools in Massachusetts found that lower amounts of green space, like trees or other vegetation, was linked to higher rates of chronic absenteeism.

Air Conditioning: During heat waves, students in buildings with AC were not just faster in their responses to test questions, but also more accurate. Students without AC, had higher reaction times, and poorer working memory.

Hot Topic: Indoor temperatures seem to continue to rise even after outdoor temperatures subside, causing “indoor heat waves” to continue.

  • “In regions of the world with predominantly cold climates, buildings were designed to retain heat. These buildings have a hard time shedding heat during hotter summer days created by the changing climate, giving rise to indoor heat waves,” said Joseph Allen, Director of Harvard Chan School’s Healthy Buildings Program.


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