Addressing Healthy School Buildings – An Essential Step for Student Success

Did you know that by the time a student graduates from high school, they will have spent more hours inside a school building only second to the amount of time they spend in their own home? With K-12 being such a formative time for students, it is critical that they are in an appropriate environment as they develop physically, mentally and socially. However, many aspects of their health, development and overall success can be negatively affected by ongoing exposure to common environmental factors in these school buildings.

So, what is the good news?

The good news is these factors are addressable today. A study* by the Healthy Buildings Team at Harvard University has made the scientific case that school buildings are foundational to student success and can directly impact health, thinking, and performance. Their research took decades of scientific evidence and distilled them into nine key fundamental building factors that influence the health and performance of students, including:

Ventilation – The rate and flow of outside air into a building is crucial to ensuring a comfortable, healthy and productive environment.

Air Quality – Proper filtration in air handling systems is important to avoid contaminants found in air, dust, and water.

Lighting – Both electric lighting and natural daylighting from windows can impact students both visually and non-visually. Beyond general illumination that impacts vision, lighting can also reduce eye strain and headaches, help increase physical activity, lower blood pressure and affect a student’s biological click impacting sleep-wake cycles.

Thermal Health– Beyond thermal “comfort” levels, poor air temperature, air speed and humidity in a building can all affect student development, increase seasonal influenza outbreaks and exacerbate respiratory symptoms. If a building is too hot or too cold, it can cause slower reaction and processing times, mental fatigue and impact cognitive function as well by increasing distractibility.

Moisture – Poorly designed and maintained buildings with increased humidity and moisture levels lead to a presence of mold and pests that can affect a student’s concentration, cause headaches and dizziness.

Water Quality – Access to safe drinking water is critical to student health. Lead in drinking water is a primary concern in schools and children exposed to it are more likely to have cognitive defects, reduced attention span, and behavioral problems.

These examples are just a few of the foundations that are key to a healthy school building. While there is a call to create standardized health performance indicators that allow schools to capture metrics and better understand what causes poor academic performance before it happens, there are things we can do today for an immediate result. Addressing some of these key factors can have a huge impact on the school building and the health and academic performance of students. Investments of these kinds directly impact the overall success of students today and in the future.

How can you immediately address this problem?

Many of the key pieces of scientific evidence identified in the foundations of student success can be addressed by pursuing an Energy Performance Contract (EPC). Working with Energia as your partner on an EPC can help you achieve these environmental goals for your building and will ultimately impact the success of your students for years to come. It is Energia’s goal to ensure that students are meeting their potential and are in a safe and healthy environment where they can best accomplish their goals.

Out of these 9 foundations of a healthy building according to the Healthy Buildings Harvard team, at least 6 of these fundamental building factors can be addressed in an Energy Performance Contract.

According to the research team at Harvard, student health promotes student thinking and ultimately leads to improved student performance. Let me help you understand how Energia can use the findings in this study* to help you set up your own EPC for your school to address these fundamental factors.

Contact me, Kendra McQuilton at to set up a call to learn how we can help you achieve an environment that promotes your students’ performance.

*Schools for Health: Foundations for Student Success: How School Buildings Influence Student Health, Thinking and Performance by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health