Cost Effectiveness of Healthy Buildings
Cost Effectiveness of Healthy Buildings
Healthy schools not only make children healthier, but more productive learners. Some people ask if it costs more to build healthy schools, but in Nova Scotia, new schools are routinely being completed on or under budget. Not only do they provide clear benefits, but building healthy schools is cheaper for parents and tax payers.
A Sick School
In the 1990s Halifax West High School was full of sick people. Students and teachers reported respiratory problems and infections, fatigue, headaches, asthma attacks, skin rashes, migraines, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, reduced concentration, eye and mouth irritation, and more. Some people only had symptoms when they were inside the building, while others, especially teachers, had problems that continued at home and even forced some to go on long-term disability.
After over a decade of health problems the building was closed and the community watched as it was demolished.
Air Quality and Performance
research has found that air quality affects productivityMore than health, research has found that air quality affects productivity. One study in 2000 reported that “The performance of an office worker increases by ~2% for every 2-fold increase in the ventilation rate, at constant pollution load” and that “The performance of an office worker increases by ~2% for every 2-fold decrease of the pollution load at constant ventilation rate.” The cleaner the air the more productive the people who breathe it become.[i]
Increased student performance
researchers found a 5 to 10 point grade difference between children in good quality buildings verses those in poor quality buildingsThat increase in productivity applies to students as well as business people. In one ground breaking study, researchers found a 5 to 10 point grade difference between children in good quality buildings verses those in poor quality buildings.[ii] According to Dr. Soheil Rastan, “The results of this study present one of the first empirical studies dealing with the economic benefits of providing quality indoor air over the minimum prescribed by current ventilation standards.”[iii]
A New Start
Six years later, teachers still reported feeling as energetic at the end of the school day as at the beginningThe new Halifax West High School was Nova Scotia’s benchmark Healthy School. It was built according to the Healthy School Design and Construction guidelines which can be found on CASLE’s website. Even with the extra time used to evaluate new materials and construction practices the school was built ahead of schedule and under budget. New schools often report occupant headaches, rashes, asthma and other more serious health concerns in the first few weeks, but Halifax West was completed with enough time to be left empty for several weeks to off-gas, and it opened without incident.
Teachers who became ill at the old Halifax West returned to work at the new school. Six years later, teachers still reported feeling as energetic at the end of the school day as at the beginning. The principal remarked in 2012 that so many formerly sick teachers had transferred into his school since it opened that he had a “sick” staff of fully functioning teachers!
Healthy School features from this school have become part of the Design Requirements Manual for all new Nova Scotia schools and public buildings, making Nova Scotia a leader in this field.
any money put effectively into improving Indoor Environment Quality pay back within 1.2 to 1.6 yearsThe new Halifax West High School was a high profile project that benefitted from a lot of special experts, including some of the authors of the Healthy School Design and Construction manual. This may have given it advantages that other construction projects don’t have, but even outside of ideal conditions, studies show that any money put effectively into improving Indoor Environment Quality pay back within 1.2 to 1.6 years.[iv] Some may fear that since they bring so many benefits they must cost more, but healthy building practices not only make schools better, they save money.
[i] Wargocki, P., Productivity is Affected by the Air Quality in Offices. Proceedings of Healthy Buildings 2000. vol.1:635
[ii] Honeywell, Canadian Schoolhouse in the Red. 1994
[iii] Soheil Rastan,PhD. April 2007, Healthy Indoors Partnership Webinar
[iv] Tedd Nathanson, Building Air Quality Technology, Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2005