Environmental Quality, Health and Learning in Conventional and High Performance School Buildings

EPA Grant Number: R835637
Title: Environmental Quality, Health and Learning in Conventional and High Performance School Buildings
Investigators: Batterman, Stuart A.
Current Investigators: Batterman, Stuart A. , Somers, Cheryl L , McCaughtry, Nate
Institution: University of Michigan , Wayne State University
Current Institution: Wayne State University , University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: November 20, 2014 through November 19, 2018 (Extended to November 19, 2019)
Project Amount: $1,000,000
RFA: Healthy Schools: Environmental Factors, Children’s Health and Performance, and Sustainable Building Practices (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Children's Health , Endocrine Disruptors , Human Health


The proposed research plan has three goals: (1) increasing our understanding of the relationship between environmental factors and the health and academic performance of students, teachers and staff; (2) evaluating the use and effectiveness of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) measures used in high performance school buildings; and (3) promoting an understanding of the importance of IEQ in schools and IEQ targets for high performance buildings and informing the next generation of standards for the sustainable design of schools.


The initial phase of this 3-year program will characterize IEQ parameters among a cross-section of 40 to 50 recently constructed elementary school buildings, which will include a sample balanced between high performance (LEED-certified) buildings and similarly sized buildings, all located in the US Midwest. Characterization will include multiday measurements of key IEQ parameters in 4 classrooms in each school, e.g., ventilation and air exchange rates, carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter (PM), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and teacher health and comfort surveys. Outcomes for high performance and conventional buildings will be compared, and the use and effectiveness of IEQ measures used in the high performance school buildings will be evaluated. The second phase will study a subset of 10 buildings, 40 classrooms and teachers, and an estimated 800 students, and will evaluate two practical and potentially effective interventions, ventilation rate changes and high performance air filtration, using a robust case-crossover study design. A number of sensitive and innovative outcomes, including IEQ parameters, absenteeism, curriculum based measures (CBM) of academic performance, and cardio-respiratory measures of physical fitness, will be evaluated using statistical models that control for relevant covariates and the nested study design. The research also includes assessment of teacher perceptions of IEQ, and analysis of energy, capital and operating cost implications of the interventions. In the third phase, we will investigate costs and feasibility issues associated with the interventions; and conduct engagement, education and outreach activities aimed at promoting the importance and understanding of IEQ on student health and performance.

Expected Results:

The proposed project will provide new information regarding the relationship between IEQ parameters and student health and academic performance. The research is significant in that it will address key limitations of the existing literature by its design, which uses a prospective intervention approach and within-subject comparisons that are powerful and less prone to confounding; the extended intervention periods that allow an analysis of outcomes such as absenteeism; the selection of academic outcome constructs that are sensitive, well-controlled and better reflect content-specific academic outcomes than previously measured; the inclusion of cardio-respiratory endurance/aerobic capacity as a health outcome likely linked to IEQ; the large cohort with sufficient statistical power and representativeness to evaluate study hypotheses; the focus on environmental factors currently believed to be among the most important to academic performance and health; and the emphasis on modern school buildings, including those explicitly incorporating measures for sustainable design. The study is anticipated to advance knowledge and inform policy related to healthy buildings, and to have national significance with respect to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of school buildings.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 10 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Indoor air, particulate matter, learning, physical activity, fitness

Progress and Final Reports:

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