We design schools to be high performance, both sustainably and academically, because we believe the former feeds the latter. If students and staff feel better in their space—the temperature is comfortable, there’s no glare from the sunlight nor darkness from the lack of it, and the acoustics aren’t distracting—then they all can perform more efficiently and at a higher level. Here are the critical aspects that are necessary to achieving these goals:
Our white paper, “Investing in Our Future,” found that daylight is the most common quality students identified as bringing out positive emotions, leading to better concentration and overall wellbeing. We found that students in classrooms with windows perform 20% faster on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests than students in windowless classrooms.
Too much ambient noise, on the other hand, was most frequently linked to negative feelings. Poor acoustics can cause teachers to strain their voices to be heard, causing fatigue, while they also interfere with students’ ability to concentrate and learn. One study revealed that students at a school under a nearby airport’s flight path performed 20% worse on a reading test than students at a school without such distractions.
Students learn better—and instructors teach better—when their classrooms are neither too hot nor too cold. Thermal discomfort can cause feelings of fatigue, irritability, and depression. Studies have shown that for every decrease of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit between 77 and 68, students’ speed and performance on any given task improved by two to four percent.
Healthy air quality can reduce instances of respiratory illness among students, which thereby increases school attendance. It has also shown to increase task-completion speeds and their overall grades. Studies have found that students in classrooms with higher ventilation rates scored 14-15% higher on standardized tests.
We’ve done extensive research into myriad design approaches that result in safe, healthy, and equitable K-12 educational environments. Click here to see our white papers on the topic, and here to see further reporting on our Insights blog.