Children are not the same as adults. Schools are not the same as office buildings.

Because we value schools as special places with precious occupants, CHPS supports an evidence-based approach to the design, construction, and operation of school facilities. We support in partnership or spirit any effort that seeks to better understand and explain the connection between the physical environment and the well-being of students, teachers, and school administrators. The Knowledge Library is a clearinghouse of studies, reports, and other resources that will help you learn about this important connection.

Research reports and feature articles are arranged by topic. This selection includes publications produced by US public agencies, university researchers and international organizations.

Schools and COVID-19

CHPS Whitepaper on Ventilation and IAQ (June 2020, updated September 2020)

School Ventilation for COVID-19: Protect Health and Improve Learning through Indoor Air Quality

The goal of this paper is to outline the learning and wellness benefits of improved IAQ in schools and to provide actionable design strategies to achieve those benefits as well as connections to further resources.

Healthy Schools Network national Healthy Schools Summit, January 2021

National Summit Report - COVID, Climate, Children, Schools 

The summit was held over two days, and more than 120 individuals heard from experts and considered new strategies and actions on the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate mitigation and resiliency in schools. The summit included technical sessions titled 'Build Back Better Schools.' CHPS was proud to participate, and was represented by Managing Director Elisabeth Krautscheid, Executive Committee member Irene Nigaglioni (IN2 Architecture), and board member Aaron Jobson (Quattrocchi Architects).

Healthy Schools

Surgeon General's Advisory: Protecting Youth Mental Health (2021)

Recommendations for supporting the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults

The advisory includes essential recommendations for the institutions that surround young people and shape their day-to-day lives—schools, community organizations, health care systems, technology companies, media, funders and foundations, employers, and government. They all have an important role to play in supporting the mental health of children and youth.;

Healthy Schools Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2017)

Presentation of Findings from Multiple Phases of Message Research, September 2017

Topics: Exploring how audiences think about the topic of healthy schools; Learning about the perceived roles and responsibilities for different players; Understanding motivations and barriers to creating and maintaining healthy schools; Developing and testing messages to describe a multidimensional concept of healthy schools; Understanding terminology and language currently in use and preferred.

Clever Classrooms: Summary report of the HEAD project by University of Salford, Manchester UK (2015)

This study reflects the first time that clear evidence of the effect on users of the overall design of the physical learning space has been isolated in real life situations. Key factors such as light, air quality, sound, temperature and link-to-nature were among those studied. Based on the results, it's estimated that the impact of moving an ‘average’ child from the least effective to the most effective space would be around 1.3 sub-levels, a big impact when pupils typically make 2 sub-levels progress a year.

EPA Research Grants for Healthy Schools (2015) - main page

Healthy Schools STAR Research grants improve the understanding of the relationship between environmental factors in K-12 educational facilities, the safety, health and academic performance of children, and the effectiveness of teachers and staff. Key components of each grant are research, community engagement, and community capacity building. Five grantees from 2015 completed studies and reports available through the site.

Green Schools Attributes for Health & Learning, funded by Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, (2007)

National Research Council (NRC) reviewed and assessed the health and productivity benefits of green schools. This assessment considers various factors: analysis of the complexity of making such assessments, potential human health and performance benefits of improvements in the building envelope, indoor air quality, lighting, and acoustical quality; assessment of the overall building condition; student achievement; research considerations; and analysis of and recommendations for planning and maintaining green schools.

Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Healthy Buildings Program (2017) - ongoing initiative covering K-12 schools, multiple studies

Foundations for Student Success: How School Buildings Influence Student Health, Thinking and Performance - quick link to 2017 report

Schools for Health Describes how the school building influences the student's health, thinking and performance. The report incorporates findings from over 200 research studies and considers over 70 health outcomes related to school buildings.  Complemented by various research articles linking student health and student thinking with student performance.

The Impact of School Infrastructure on Learning: A Synthesis of the Evidence. (2019)  (2019)   (World Bank)

This report reviews current research studies on how school infrastructure affects children’s learning outcomes and to identify key parameters that can inform the design, implementation, and supervision of future educational infrastructure projects. The narrative suggests a series of questions to be answered in order to create an optimal learning environment. Key findings from studies of international practice are a first step towards identifying optimal solutions to the concerns addressed through questions and maximizing the benefits of school infrastructure.

Towards Healthy Schools, Healthy Schools Network

All states require children to attend school, but no state ensures that those schools are environmentally safe and healthy. “Towards Healthy Schools: Reducing Risks to Children” is the fourth in a series of triennial "state of the states" reports from Healthy Schools Network and its partners in the Coalition for Healthier Schools, beginning in 2006. This report features published media reports on environmental conditions from every state in the country. This disturbing summary highlights stories from teachers, parents, guardians, and the children themselves, describing the numerous, serious, unexamined and unaddressed risks to health and learning, that are rarely acknowledged by public agencies.


"Building a Sound Future for Students: Considering the Acoustics in Occupied Active Classrooms" link to article (2020) in Acoustics Today magazine

Authored by CHPS member Lily Wang and her University of Nebraska acoustics group this article published in Acoustics Today examines the importance of a sometimes overlooked factor: Standards for acoustics in classrooms typically set recommendations for unoccupied spaces.  But these standards may not result in appropriate acoustic environments for when those rooms are occupied and in active use.

Indoor Environmental Quality

An assessment of indoor environmental quality in schools and its association with health and performance. Building and Environment. (2015) 1-6. - link to abstract  

A school district composed of 70 schools in the Southwestern United States engaged in research over two academic years to examine the associations between different indoor environmental quality (IEQ) indicators and student performance. Researchers collected data on absenteeism and health as a baseline.  Classroom ventilation rate, temperature, and hygiene of high contact surfaces appear to be important  (IEQ) parameters, and potentially related to student health and/or performance.

Indoor Environmental Quality of Classrooms and Student Outcomes: A Path Analysis Approach. SeonMi Choi, PhD. Researcher, Interior Design, College of Design. University of Minnesota. Journal of Learning Spaces, Vol. 2, No 2 (2013).

The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in a set of university classrooms and students’ outcomes. The researcher collected data from more than 600 students. Study criteria included thermal, acoustic, lighting and view conditions; indoor air quality, furnishings, aesthetics, and technology. Evidence suggested positive student outcomes when specific design factors are included in university classrooms. Results of the study provided suggestions for additional research.

Introducing an environmental assessment and intervention program in inner-city schools. Allergy Clinical Immunology. 2014 December; 134(6): 1232–1237. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2014.09.010.  Introducing an environmental assessment and intervention program in inner-city schools.

This review summarizes the importance and common challenges of school-based environmental assessment and intervention studies linked to health effects. It focuses on the key components of developing such a study and the challenges and benefits to implementation. 

Ventilation & Air Quality

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Conventional and High Performance School Buildings in the U.S. Lexuan Zhong, Feng-Chiao Su and Stuart Batterman, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2017.

From the abstract: Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has been an indoor environmental quality (IEQ) concern in schools and other buildings for many years. Newer designs, construction practices and building materials for “green” buildings and the use of “environmentally friendly” products have the promise of lowering chemical exposure. This study examines VOCs and IEQ parameters in 144 classrooms in 37 conventional and high performance elementary schools in the U.S. with the objectives of providing a comprehensive analysis and updating the literature.

Association of Classroom Ventilation with Reduced Illness Absence: A Prospective Study in California Elementary Schools Indoor Air. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. LBNL (2013) Paper LBNL-6259E. 

This study investigated relationships between inadequate classroom ventilation rates (VRs) with increased illness absence (IA) in 162 third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms over a two-year period.  Classrooms were located in three school districts in different regions of California: South Coast of Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, and the Central Valley. Evidence suggests that increasing VRs would decrease absenteeism due to illness; thereby significantly increasing attendance-linked school funding with minimal increased costs.

Improving Indoor Air Quality in California Schools

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, Western Cooling Efficiency Center found that although HVAC systems provide necessary mechanical ventilation to classrooms, there is also increasing evidence that CO2 exhaled by building occupants is an indoor pollutant that can affect cognitive performance. This problem is especially important in school classrooms where large numbers of students sit for several hours per day. Researchers document results of their studies and recommend a series of action steps to correct the problems

Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of VOC Emissions from Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers Version 1.2

The California Department of Public Health updated in 2017 its report on the Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of VOC Emissions from Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers

Indoor Air Quality and Academic Performance. Tess M. Stafford. October 29, 2013, UNSW Australian School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-25. 

This research studied the efforts of indoor air quality in most schools located in one school district in Texas. Each school completed air quality renovations prior to the beginning of the research study. Although the study involved several complex factors, the evidence indicated that improving air quality in a classroom was more cost-effective to improve student outcomes than decreasing class size.

School children’s personal exposure to ultrafine particles in the urban environment. Environmental Science & Technology (including News & Research. Notes), Mazaheri, Mandana, et al. (2014). 48(1), pp. 113-120.  (Australia)

This research investigates the opportunities for a child’s exposure to ultrafine particulates in school, home and in the community and its effects on the body. Children in this study kept an activity diary that listed more than 90 unique activities classified into categories for evaluation. 

School Ground Setting

High School Landscapes and Student Performance, PhD thesis, Matsuoka, Rodney H., 2008

From abstract: High school students today are experiencing unprecedented levels of school related stress. At the same time, a growing body of research has linked views of and access to natural features with stress reduction and restoration from mental fatigue. How important are such views and access to students while they are at school? This study investigated 101 public high schools in southeastern Michigan to examine the role played by the availability of nearby natural environments in the academic achievement and behavior of high school students. 

Study on Elementary Student Performance Relative to Surrounding "Greenness" of the School - link goes to the abstract

This study investigated the association between “greenness” of the area surrounding a Massachusetts public elementary school and the academic achievement of the school’s student body. Results of the study were based on standardized tests taken within a school set in an ecological setting. Findings indicated a consistently positive and significant association between the greenness of the school and the school-wide performance on both English and Math tests; even after adjustment for socio-economic factors and urban residency.

Temperature & Relative Humidity

Indoor Environmental Quality in Finnish Elementary Schools and Its Effects on Students’ Health and Learning. (2015) Richard Shaughnessy, et al.  (Finland) 

This research assessment consisted of a total of 107 sixth grade classrooms from 59 schools in Southern Finland. A key finding was a positive and significant correlation between mean temperature and students’ poor health.

The effects of building-related factors on classroom relative humidity among North Carolina schools participating in the “Free to Breathe, Free to Teach” study. Indoor Air: Vol 25, Issue 6.

The study considered classrooms with relative humidity levels outside of recommended bounds and identified the mechnical factors that can be controlled to maintain proper RH levels. The study concludes that the research offers "actionable decision points for school design and maintenance to prevent high or low classroom RH."

Water Quality

U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) - survey of school districts across the U.S. on lead in school drinking water published July 5, 2018, publicly released July 17, 2018.

K-12 Education: Lead Testing of School Drinking Water Would Benefit from Improved Federal Guidance. Describes the results of a national survey of school districts and their efforts to test and remediate for lead in school drinking water. The GAO outlines seven recommendations, One of those recommendations is that the EPA update its guidance on how schools determine lead levels and collaborate with the U.S. Department of Education to disseminate guidance and encourage testing for lead.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Presents federal guidelines and recommendations for lead in drinking water in schools and childcare facilities, published January 1, 2018.

Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems is a comprehensive resource for schools and school districts that includes the most current rules, recommendations, and available tools for testing, monitoring, and remediating lead in school drinking water. Learn about the 3Ts for reducing lead in drinking water (Training, Testing, and Taking Action) and how to implemint the 3Ts Toolkit in your school.


EPA On-Demand Webinars for IAQ

The web-based training in the IAQ Master Class Professional Training Webinar Series and IAQ Knowledge-to-Action Professional Training Webinar Series provide school district staff across the country with the knowledge needed to start, improve or sustain an IAQ management program within their school or school district. Each pre-recorded webinar features technical experts, industry leaders and model school districts, and is followed by a 30-minute mentoring question and answer session.

EPA Webinar on Energy Efficiency & Health

Getting Started with Energy Savings + Health: Integrating Energy Efficiency, Health & Safety

The focus of his YouTube-based webinar is to describe the value of protecting indoor quality while increasing energy efficiency for students and staff. Key issues include guidance for implementation, preventive maintenance, and best practices. The 1-hour and 20-minute webinar combines slides with discussion from technical expert speakers and presentation of a model school district as an example. A question and answer session follows the webinar.