When many administrators and facility managers think of a healthy building, they think of a building that is well maintained, in good repair, energy efficient, and free of any needs for immediate corrective maintenance. However, there is a different yet equally important connotation that has been growing in popularity recently. More and more architects, teachers and even doctors are beginning to acknowledge the link between building design and maintenance and the overall health and productivity of its tenants.
The link between building maintenance and academic performance
Teachers and parents are constantly seeking ways to improve the education students are receiving. One area that, until recently, has been woefully overlooked is the condition of the school itself. As a place students spend between six and eight hours a day for five days a week, it stands to reason that any unresolved maintenance issues or poorly managed classroom spaces can have a significant impact on performance.
A report from the American Institute of Architects found that 90 percent of homeowners surveyed - an overwhelming majority - revealed that they believed the school building itself can have an impact on student performance. Yet despite the general consensus and data from the AIA and the Environmental Protection Agency, many administrators are hesitant to incorporate such green repairs as part of their maintenance and upgrade programs, largely due to cost.
Making a healthier school
When it comes to a greener, healthier building, the ideal practice is to start from scratch. While building a green school is more costly than building a conventional one, the long-term savings and benefits are significant. According to a joint report from, among others, the American Federation of Teachers and the AIA, building a green school can result in 33 percent more energy efficient facilities, and significant financial benefits in the way of improved health care costs and teacher turnover.
Of course that's not to say that older buildings can't make the change to a healthier setting. According to the CDC, the most important thing maintenance managers can do is tackle many of those niggling repair projects that often fall victim to deferred maintenance. Leaking roofs, poor insulation and heating and an overreliance on chemical cleaners can contribute to health concerns like asthma and allergies. Students are particularly susceptible to such health concerns, and they are frequent causes of absenteeism linked to reduced academic performance. Focusing on repairs that improve temperature regulation and indoor air quality is an important step in stemming these preventable obstacles to student success.