Charter Focus - Fall 2013 - page 9

Charter Focus | Fall 2013
as carbon-based chemicals (VOCs)
and mold can exacerbate chronic
illnesses such as asthma. Some
design recommendations, based upon
climate and building type, include
increased access to natural ventilation/
outdoor air ventilation, using efficient
mechanical cooling in hot climates,
allowing for internal air flow during
the day and natural ventilation to cool
the mass of the building at night.
Achieving optimal thermal conditions
while maintaining lower energy
consumption is an ideal goal
when making facilities upgrades
or constructing new buildings.
Teachers have noted that temperature
comfort and humidity levels have
an effect on their teaching abilities
and the students’ abilities to focus
and perform at high levels.
addition, teachers have voiced that
controlling temperatures in their
own spaces is important to student
A study published
in 2007 demonstrated that as
temperatures were lowered from 77
degrees to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the
speed on the same tests improved.
It has been recommended that
students perform tasks best in rooms
with 40-70% humidity and with
temperatures ranging from 68-74
degrees Fahrenheit.
New low-energy
heating and cooling methods as well
as increased insulation are ways to
achieve optimal humidity and thermal
In 1969, 41% of students walked
or biked to school; by 2001, only
13% of students walked or biked to
school, and today, as few as 5% of
students walk or bike to school. 4%
of elementary schools, 8% of middle
schools, and 2% of high schools
provide daily physical education or its
equivalent. Recognizing that students
do not move as much as they should
to prevent obesity and chronic illness
as well as the evidence that links
physical activity to learning readiness,
classroom behavior and academic
achievement, building design should
allow for physical activity and
movement. A recent focus has been on
Active Design principles, or ways to
design both schools and communities
that promote physical activities.
Examples are outdoor learning and
play areas, staircases, and safe routes
to schools for biking and walking.
The same practices that lead to
energy efficiencies, lower operations
costs, environmental sustainability
and responsibility and address
your bottom line may also improve
the health and performance of the
students and adults in your building.
There is not quantifiable data that
correlates efficient building practices
with improved student health or
academic achievement. Rather,
associations have been made between
these practices and student/staff
health and performance. Thus, more
research is warranted and more data
should be collected at school sites to
make the case. Certainly we should
turn to schools that have implemented
green building practices in order to
understand if the health, productivity
and performance of their students
and staff have improved and to what
For a list of Colorado’s “Green Ribbon
Schools” that have been recognized for the
efforts toward energy efficient buildings,
healthy students and school environment,
and environmental literacy of all students,
contact Lindsey Friedman, lfriedman@ Lindsey Friedman is the
Health and Wellness ProgramManager at the
Colorado League of Charter Schools.
that certain building performance
characteristics such as air quality,
acoustics, lighting, and temperature
can impact responses that relate to
student learning, student and teacher
health, and productivity.
School buildings are most utilized
during and well beyond the hours of
highest energy usage, from 11 am- 4
pm. Approximately 49% of schools’
energy expenses can be attributed
to lighting.
Adequate lighting as
well as the presence of natural light
affects multiple biological systems
and processes, including visual and
circadian. The light required to
maintain healthy circadian cycles
(solar light- dark cycle) is stronger
than electrical light.
If students are not
exposed to enough natural light, both
their health and their productivity can
be compromised. Some studies have
shown that with minimal natural light,
children’s melatonin cycles can also
be disturbed, potentially influencing
their alertness and readiness to learn.
Day lighting through small openings,
such as tubes or skylights can prevent
the heat gain and loss that happens
through large windows. Coupled with
timers, sensors and even solar panels,
these technologies can reduce energy
use while providing the natural light
students and teachers need to be as
productive as possible.
Air conditioning and heating systems
can have a positive or detrimental
effect on the air quality and ventilation
in a school building. As research
continues and more data becomes
available, air quality seems to be
linked to “Sick Building Syndrome.”
Recent studies have shown that when
ventilation rates have been lowered
from 17 cfm/person to 10 cfm/person
(15 cfm is recommended), there was
a 15% increase in symptoms which
point to Sick Building Syndrome.
Relatively recent research has shown
that as CO
levels decrease, speed on
task increases.
There are many school
buildings that do not have mechanical
ventilation and rely simply on
windows and door openings to move
the air. Building toxins such
1 Retrieved from National Center for Education Statistics.
2 Kats, Gregory. “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits.” October 2006.
3 Kats, Gregory. “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” A Capital E Report, October 2006.
4 American Society of Civil Engineers. (2009). 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil
Engineers. Retrieved from
5 Kats, Gregory. “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” A Capital E Report, October 2006.
6 Solatube International Inc. (2008) The Commercial Daylighting Experience.
7 National Research Council. Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2006.
8 Figueiro MG & Rea MS. (2010). Lack of short-wavelength light during the school day delays dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) in middle
school students. NeuroEndocrinology Letters. Vol 31, No. 1. Pages 92-96.
9Baker, L., & Bernstein, H. (2012). The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance: A Call for Research. McGraw-Hill
Research Foundation.
10Baker, L., & Bernstein, H. (2012). The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance: A Call for Research. McGraw-Hill
Research Foundation.
11 Wyon, D., &Wargocki, P. (2007). Indoor Environmental Effects on the Performance Of School Work By Children. (1257-TRP). ASHRAE.
12 Walker, Andy. (2010). Natural Ventilation. Retrieved fromWhole Building Design Guide,
13 Baker, L., & Bernstein, H. (2012). The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance: A Call for Research. McGraw-Hill
Research Foundation.
14 Lowe, Jerry Milton. (1990). The Interface Between Educational Facilities and Learning Climate in Three Elementary Schools. Texas: Texas
A&M University.
15 Wyon, D., &Wargocki, P. (2007). Indoor Environmental Effects on The Performance Of School Work By Children. (1257-TRP). ASHRAE.
16 Schneider, M. (2002). Do School Facilities Affect Academic Outcomes? Washington, D.C.: National Clearinghouse for Educational
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