The indoor built environment plays a critical role in our overall well-being because of both the amount of time we spend indoors (~90%) and the ability of buildings to positively or negatively influence our health.
People who work in well-ventilated offices with below-average levels of indoor pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) have significantly higher cognitive functioning scores—in crucial areas such as responding to a crisis or developing strategy—than those who work in offices with typical levels, according to a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University.
The researchers looked at people’s experiences in “green” vs. “non-green” buildings in a double-blind study, in which both the participants and the analysts were blinded to test conditions to avoid biased results. The findings suggest that the indoor environments in which many people work daily could be adversely affecting cognitive function—and that, conversely, improved air quality could greatly increase the cognitive function performance of workers.
Conducted in the fall of 2014 and published in October 2015, The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function study found participants’ cognitive function test scores doubled in indoor environments with improved indoor environmental quality.
VOCs and CO2 were independently associated with cognitive scores. On average, cognitive scores were 61% higher on the 'Green building' day and 101% higher on the two 'Green+ building' days than on the 'Conventional' building day. Cognitive function scores were significantly better under Green+ building conditions than in the Conventional building conditions for all nine functional domains.