Children are not the same as adults. Schools are not the same as office buildings.
Because we value schools as special places with precious occupants, CHPS supports an evidence-based approach to the design, construction, and operation of school facilities. We support in partnership or spirit any effort that seeks to better understand and explain the connection between the physical environment and the well-being of students, teachers, and school administrators. The Knowledge Library is a clearinghouse of studies, reports, and other resources that will help you learn about this important connection.
Research reports and feature articles are arranged by topic. This selection includes publications produced by US public agencies, university researchers and international organizations.
Schools and COVID-19
CHPS Whitepaper on Ventilation and IAQ (June 2020, updated September 2020)
EPA Research Grants for Healthy Schools (2015)
Healthy Schools STAR Research grants improve the understanding of the relationship between environmental factors in K-12 educational facilities, the safety, health and academic performance of children, and the effectiveness of teachers and staff. Key components of each grant are research, community engagement, and community capacity building. Five grantees from 2015 completed studies and reports available through the site.
Green Schools Attributes for Health & Learning, funded by Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, (2007)
National Research Council (NRC) reviewed and assessed the health and productivity benefits of green schools. This assessment considers various factors: analysis of the complexity of making such assessments, potential human health and performance benefits of improvements in the building envelope, indoor air quality, lighting, and acoustical quality; assessment of the overall building condition; student achievement; research considerations; and analysis of and recommendations for planning and maintaining green schools.
Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Healthy Buildings Program (2017)
https://schools.forhealth.org/ - ongoing initiative covering K-12 schools, multiple studies
Foundations for Student Success: How School Buildings Influence Student Health, Thinking and Performance - quick link to 2017 report
Schools for Health Describes 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. Complemented by various research articles linking student health and student thinking with student performance.
The Impact of School Infrastructure on Learning: A Synthesis of the Evidence. (2019)
This report reviews current research studies on how school infrastructure affects children’s learning outcomes and to identify key parameters that can inform the design, implementation, and supervision of future educational infrastructure projects. The narrative suggests a series of questions to be answered in order to create an optimal learning environment. Key findings from studies of international practice are a first step towards identifying optimal solutions to the concerns addressed through questions and maximizing the benefits of school infrastructure.
Towards Healthy Schools, Healthy Schools Network
All states require children to attend school, but no state ensures that those schools are environmentally safe and healthy. “Towards Healthy Schools: Reducing Risks to Children” is the fourth in a series of triennial "state of the states" reports from Healthy Schools Network and its partners in the Coalition for Healthier Schools, beginning in 2006. This report features published media reports on environmental conditions from every state in the country. This disturbing summary highlights stories from teachers, parents, guardians, and the children themselves, describing the numerous, serious, unexamined and unaddressed risks to health and learning, that are rarely acknowledged by public agencies.
Indoor Environmental Quality
An assessment of indoor environmental quality in schools and its association with health and performance. Building and Environment. (2015) 1-6.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132315001092?via%3Dihub - link to abstract
A school district composed of 70 schools in the Southwestern United States engaged in research over two academic years to examine the associations between different indoor environmental quality (IEQ) indicators and student performance. Researchers collected data on absenteeism and health as a baseline. Classroom ventilation rate, temperature, and hygiene of high contact surfaces appear to be important (IEQ) parameters, and potentially related to student health and/or performance.
Indoor Environmental Quality of Classrooms and Student Outcomes: A Path Analysis Approach. SeonMi Choi, PhD. Researcher, Interior Design, College of Design. University of Minnesota. Journal of Learning Spaces, Vol. 2, No 2 (2013).
The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in a set of university classrooms and students’ outcomes. The researcher collected data from more than 600 students. Study criteria included thermal, acoustic, lighting and view conditions; indoor air quality, furnishings, aesthetics, and technology. Evidence suggested positive student outcomes when specific design factors are included in university classrooms. Results of the study provided suggestions for additional research.
Introducing an environmental assessment and intervention program in inner-city schools. Allergy Clinical Immunology. 2014 December; 134(6): 1232–1237. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2014.09.010. Introducing an environmental assessment and intervention program in inner-city schools.
This review summarizes the importance and common challenges of school-based environmental assessment and intervention studies linked to health effects. It focuses on the key components of developing such a study and the challenges and benefits to implementation.
Ventilation & Air Quality
Association of Classroom Ventilation with Reduced Illness Absence: A Prospective Study in California Elementary Schools Indoor Air. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. LBNL (2013) Paper LBNL-6259E.
This study investigated relationships between inadequate classroom ventilation rates (VRs) with increased illness absence (IA) in 162 third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms over a two-year period. Classrooms were located in three school districts in different regions of California: South Coast of Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, and the Central Valley. Evidence suggests that increasing VRs would decrease absenteeism due to illness; thereby significantly increasing attendance-linked school funding with minimal increased costs.
Improving Indoor Air Quality in California Schools
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, Western Cooling Efficiency Center found that although HVAC systems provide necessary mechanical ventilation to classrooms, there is also increasing evidence that CO2 exhaled by building occupants is an indoor pollutant that can affect cognitive performance. This problem is especially important in school classrooms where large numbers of students sit for several hours per day. Researchers document results of their studies and recommend a series of action steps to correct the problems
Indoor Air Quality and Academic Performance. Tess M. Stafford. October 29, 2013, UNSW Australian School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-25.
This research studied the efforts of indoor air quality in most schools located in one school district in Texas. Each school completed air quality renovations prior to the beginning of the research study. Although the study involved several complex factors, the evidence indicated that improving air quality in a classroom was more cost-effective to improve student outcomes than decreasing class size.
School children’s personal exposure to ultrafine particles in the urban environment. Environmental Science & Technology (including News & Research. Notes), Mazaheri, Mandana, et al. (2014). 48(1), pp. 113-120. (Australia)
This research investigates the opportunities for a child’s exposure to ultrafine particulates in school, home and in the community and its effects on the body. Children in this study kept an activity diary that listed more than 90 unique activities classified into categories for evaluation.
School Ground Setting
Study on Elementary Student Performance Relative to Surrounding "Greenness" of the School
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195655/ - link goes to the abstract
This study investigated the association between “greenness” of the area surrounding a Massachusetts public elementary school and the academic achievement of the school’s student body. Results of the study were based on standardized tests taken within a school set in an ecological setting. Findings indicated a consistently positive and significant association between the greenness of the school and the school-wide performance on both English and Math tests; even after adjustment for socio-economic factors and urban residency.
Temperature & Relative Humidity
Indoor Environmental Quality in Finnish Elementary Schools and Its Effects on Students’ Health and Learning. (2015) Richard Shaughnessy, et al.
This research assessment consisted of a total of 107 sixth grade classrooms from 59 schools in Southern Finland. A key finding was a positive and significant correlation between mean temperature and students’ poor health.
The effects of building-related factors on classroom relative humidity among North Carolina schools participating in the “Free to Breathe, Free to Teach” study. Indoor Air: Vol 25, Issue 6.
The study considered classrooms with relative humidity levels outside of recommended bounds and identified the mechnical factors that can be controlled to maintain proper RH levels. The study concludes that the research offers "actionable decision points for school design and maintenance to prevent high or low classroom RH."
U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-382 - survey of school districts across the U.S. on lead in school drinking water published July 5, 2018, publicly released July 17, 2018.
K-12 Education: Lead Testing of School Drinking Water Would Benefit from Improved Federal Guidance. Describes the results of a national survey of school districts and their efforts to test and remediate for lead in school drinking water. The GAO outlines seven recommendations, One of those recommendations is that the EPA update its guidance on how schools determine lead levels and collaborate with the U.S. Department of Education to disseminate guidance and encourage testing for lead.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
https://www.epa.gov/node/116045_ Presents federal guidelines and recommendations for lead in drinking water in schools and childcare facilities, published January 1, 2018.
Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems is a comprehensive resource for schools and school districts that includes the most current rules, recommendations, and available tools for testing, monitoring, and remediating lead in school drinking water. Learn about the 3Ts for reducing lead in drinking water (Training, Testing, and Taking Action) and how to implemint the 3Ts Toolkit in your school.
EPA On-Demand Webinars for IAQ
The web-based training in the IAQ Master Class Professional Training Webinar Series and IAQ Knowledge-to-Action Professional Training Webinar Series provide school district staff across the country with the knowledge needed to start, improve or sustain an IAQ management program within their school or school district. Each pre-recorded webinar features technical experts, industry leaders and model school districts, and is followed by a 30-minute mentoring question and answer session.
EPA Webinar on Energy Efficiency & Health
The focus of his YouTube-based webinar is to describe the value of protecting indoor quality while increasing energy efficiency for students and staff. Key issues include guidance for implementation, preventive maintenance, and best practices. The 1-hour and 20-minute webinar combines slides with discussion from technical expert speakers and presentation of a model school district as an example. A question and answer session follows the webinar.