Indoor Environment and Impact on Schools

It has often been hypothesized that indoor air quality of school environments can impact actual productivity of students, particularly in regards to thermal comfort and air quality. However, until recently there have been few concrete studies on the subject. It goes without saying that if students feel comfortable, they naturally pay better attention and their work performance increases. The same is likely true of office environments. A more recent study published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provides more data behind some long-held school productivity hypothesis.

Temperature and School Work Performance

Although there were some limited studies from Kansas State University in the 1960s that found kids performed work more quickly in temperatures below 62 degrees, there were more errors in their work. The error rate was 20 percent lower at temperatures at 80 degrees, but students worked more slowly. They were 10 percent faster at a temperature of 68.

In more recent studies, classrooms with more moderate temperate ranges were tested against those in the 80-degree range. That study indicated the average speed of completing school work decreased by 1.1% per each 1 degree increase in temperature from 68 to 77. The actual error rate was not significantly changed with increases in this same temperature range.

Ventilation and School Performance

Another study on ventilation was conducted to see the impact on student performance. The study found that increases in ventilation rates in classrooms up to 20 cfm per student were associated with improvements in student performance of a few to several percentage points.  Increases of ventilation rates up to 15 cfm per student were associated with a higher portion of students passing standardized reading and math tests.

Indoor Air Quality in Schools

According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants can be 2-5 times higher, and occasionally 100 times higher, than outdoor levels. As such, classroom air quality is a contributing factor to student comfort, attendance and productivity. Not to mention, poor indoor quality can contribute to short- and long-term health problems such as asthma, allergic reactions, headaches, nasal congestion, eye and skin irritations, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

Also, it has been found that poor indoor quality can lend to escalating building deterioration rates. One study on an elementary school revealed that if $8,140 had been spent on preventative maintenance of their indoor air systems over a 22-year span, it would have avoided $1.5 million in repairs!

How to use this Information

At Major we take the comfort of schools very seriously, and have a portfolio of over 60 schools that we have worked on over our 45 year history! That is why we are active members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGC) and will again be participating in the upcoming Green School Summit in November. Obviously, it is not just schools that can benefit from better indoor air quality and comfort, it is also commercial facilities. Indoor comfort is a major contributing factor to employee / student health and productivity. Give us a call at 303-424-1622 or schedule your appointment online to have a one of our Comfort Specialists perform a free systems evaluation on your school or facility.