How Green Building and LEED Impact Your Kids’ Health

LEED Impact Your Kids’ Health
With Father’s Day quickly approaching (remember, it’s this Sunday, June 21!), we’d like to talk to you about how Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) can affect kids. We all know that parents want the best for their kids. As a parent you want your kids to have good health, good schools and good grades. But have you ever stopped to think about how all of these things might be influenced by LEED?

The U.S. Green Building Council, as a developer of LEED, has taken it upon themselves to start the Center for Green Schools. It is their mission that every student “deserves to go to a school that is safe, healthy and clean.”

Good schools, good grades and good health are intricately linked. In the LEED for Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C) certification, projects are recognized for specialized performance in new construction and major renovation, and there is a category specifically for schools.

One of the credit requirements for LEED certification promotes efficient, high-performance lighting systems. Some of the studies currently in progress involve how daylighting impacts students. One study found that students without access to natural light showed a delay in seasonal cortisol production, a hormone that is positively associated with concentration abilities (Kuller & Lindsten, 1992). This is an area where there is an abundance of research.

The ventilation systems in schools can keep kids healthy. One measureable impact that school buildings can have on teachers and students is air quality. Building systems and materials can either have a positive impact on overall air quality in a building (when heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems filter out pollutants in ambient air), or they can contribute to a deterioration of air quality, through increased particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic materials. In one notable study, researchers found that task speed increased significantly in students (10–12 years old) when outdoor air supply rates were increased from 6.4 to 18 cfm per person, which produced a CO2 level change from 1300 to 900 ppm (Wyon & Wargocki, 2007). CO2 levels and ventilation have also been shown to have a connection to average daily attendance.

The building envelope is also part of the LEED certification process and should be considered when thinking about a healthy school for your child. This definition of a building envelope from is helpful:

“A building envelope includes all the components that make up the shell or skin of the building.” These components separate the exterior of the building from the interior, and are designed by the project architect or engineers to meet the needs of each individual application. The building envelope may also be defined as the components that separate conditioned areas from unconditioned space. Exterior or unheated living spaces are not included inside the envelope, while any living space that is equipped with heat or air conditioning would be included.”

Of major importance for your children (and teachers) when they are attending school is that the building envelope is properly designed, constructed and maintained. If the building envelope has problems with excess moisture (which is fairly common), mold can grow. Mold is associated with upper respiratory symptoms, such as asthma, which is a common cause of absence from school.

We know your kids are important to you. As they give you their handmade cards, ties and maybe, if you’re lucky, a new set of golf clubs on Sunday, take a moment to think about how a healthy learning environment can affect them. From good grades to good health, find out what you can do to help. Use your power to advocate for better building practices.

To find out more, visit the Center for Green Schools, and read just about anything in their new library. I recommend this article about investing in green learning environments.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day from all of us at alliantgroup!

alliantgroup is the nation’s leading provider of specialty tax consulting services including the Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Deduction (179D) and the Research and Development Tax Credit. Contact us today to learn how your work on energy-efficient and LEED-certified buildings may qualify you for lucrative tax incentives and credits.