High Performance Schools & Indoor Air Quality
High performance schools, as outlined by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), create a “healthy environment that is conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.” The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) lists twelve key characteristics high performance schools must meet including being healthy, comfortable, energy efficient, environmentally responsible and adaptable to changing needs. Minimizing indoor air pollutants is paramount to high performance schools, due to the potentially detrimental effects volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates including allergens and molds and combustion gases may have on the health and wellbeing of children. In addition to their capacity to trigger asthma or allergy attacks, some of these pollutants are notorious for causing flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
The high importance leadership standards such as CHPS and USGBC’s LEED for Schools place on minimizing indoor pollutants is based on countless studies suggesting healthy indoor environments are critical to protect children’s health and raise academic achievements. For example, the Center for Building Performance at Carnegie Mellon University’s Building Investment Decision Support (BIDS) program reviewed more than 1,500 studies related to indoor environmental quality and concluded that “seventeen separate studies all found positive health impacts (reduction in reported prevalence of symptoms) from improved indoor air quality, ranging from 13.5 percent to 87 percent improvements, with an average improvement of 41 percent” (Kats 2006). A National Research Council interim report concludes: “The body of available research is suggestive of an association between the condition of a school building and student achievement. All of the studies analyzed by the committee found that student test scores improved as the physical condition of school buildings improved” (National Research Council 2006). A California Air Resources Board (CARB) study shows children exposed to high levels of VOCs are four times more likely to develop asthma than adults in the same environment. Given the overwhelming scientific evidence, in addition to alarming statistics like an estimated 60,000 schools reporting indoor air quality problems and students in the United States missing 14 million days of school every year due to asthma, improving indoor air quality in schools must be made a top priority.
Fortunately, creating and maintaining healthy learning environments for children and teachers can be quite simple and can be accomplished at very little cost. A combination of three techniques can be used to address most indoor air quality challenges: ventilation, filtration and source control. Ventilation and air filtration provide clean air circulating through the building for teachers and students to breathe. Source control, described by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lung Association, is the most effective way to reduce indoor air pollutants, minimizing the harmful emissions of chemicals into the air. Choosing finishes, building products, furniture, school supplies and even cleaning chemicals that are third-party certified for low chemical emissions can drastically improve the quality of air school occupants breathe. Small steps, like including GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certification in a school specification set, can prove to be an effective and inexpensive approach to embracing indoor air quality in educational facilities as well as bettering the quality of children’s learning environments.
Enhancing a school’s indoor environment can contribute to student / teacher productivity, financial savings, positive community image and the overall success of a school as a healthy learning environment. Specifying GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified products may help schools meet the requirements outlined in leading high performance school programs, such as LEED, CHPS or the EPA’s Tools for Schools, but most importantly, it will improve a school’s indoor air quality thereby creating healthy learning environments.
The GREENGUARD Children & Schools Program offers third-party
certified products, specifically tested to respond to the sensitive
nature of schools and their occupants. To find certified products, please
To learn more about the important role indoor air quality plays in high
performance schools, read a complete research report titled “Green,
High Performance Schools.” This report can be found here.
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GREENGUARD In the News
The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) serves as a resource for publications and media outlets, providing information on various topics that relate to product emissions and indoor air quality. The following are recent articles and features.
the marketing misuse of 'green'
The Giggle Guide
GREENGUARD Nursery Premiers at ABC Show
is a Green Product?
National Green Building Standard
Your Home and Life
Third-party Certification Program and Resources Primer
First School of Sustainability Uses greenscreen® to Help Cool Interior
Flooring announces the first search engine for green flooring products
for LEED architects and builders
To read these and past articles, visit the Press Room/Articles under the 'About GEI' tab on the GEI website. Read More...
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