Sustainable Places, Health and Educational Research in Schools (SPHEReS)

EPA Grant Number: R835635
Title: Sustainable Places, Health and Educational Research in Schools (SPHEReS)
Investigators: Cross, Jennifer E , Reynolds, Stephen J. , Dunbar, Brian , Magzamen, Sheryl
Current Investigators: Cross, Jennifer E , Reynolds, Stephen J. , Dunbar, Brian , Magzamen, Sheryl , Manning, Dale , Suter, Jordan , Schaeffer, Joshua
Institution: Colorado State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: March 2, 2015 through March 1, 2019 (Extended to March 1, 2020)
Project Amount: $999,387
RFA: Healthy Schools: Environmental Factors, Children’s Health and Performance, and Sustainable Building Practices (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Children's Health , Human Health


This study has three primary objectives: (A) Determine if new, sustainably built schools and sustainably retrofitted schools have a positive impact on human performance, including student health, student academic achievement, employee health and work satisfaction compared to conventional school buildings; (b) Examine how features of sustainable buildings that improve environmental quality mediate the relationship between improved air quality and student and teacher health and performance; and (c) Determine return on investment for sustainable building design and construction in terms of human performance measures. We hypothesize that (a) sustainable building design and features will be associated with improved indoor environmental quality, which will result in improvements in end of grade standardized test scores and individual course grades; (b) sustainable building features which improve environmental quality (i.e. daylighting, thermal comfort) will have both indirect and direct effects on student and teacher health and performance; and (c) improved understanding of the effect that changes in green infrastructure have on academic outcomes will help to provide a more complete spectrum of benefits that may come from specific retrofits.


The research team will assess natural experiments in two non-urban school districts by assessing the differences in student and teach health and performance in three types of schools: newly constructed green schools, retro-fitted green schools, and conventional schools. Building on an established relationship between Colorado State University and community organizations, we will develop a longitudinal data set to measure features in 21 schools and the impact on student and teacher performance and health. This study will follow two cohorts of 5th and 8th grade students as they transition from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school. The project will develop classroom labs (new and revised curricula) where students will measure IEQ, perceived IEQ and health in classrooms. These data will be matched with classroom and school IAQ measures and student and teacher performance data. In addition, we will work with city and school district partners to develop a community-based social marketing campaign to reduce idling at one school where vehicle idling contributes to reduced IAQ. Finally, we will implement an econometric approach to conduct cost-benefit analysis of green construction and operations.

Expected Results:

We will develop the first longitudinal database on green buildings features and student and teacher health and performance. A multi-methods design and interdisciplinary analyses will provide school districts with an enhanced understanding of the interrelationship of school facility quality, occupant health and performance, and cost-benefit data on various structural features of green schools. These data can be used to quantify the human benefits of green retrofits and construction, and set policy and priorities for facility and operational improvements. In addition, this study will develop new classroom labs for 5th – 10th grade on environmental quality and health.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 15 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Exposure assessment, sustainability, health effects, epidemiology, community-engaged research, indoor air, cost benefit, monitoring, Western, Colorado (CO), EPA Region 8;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report
  • Final Report