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New Study Links Green Buildings to Higher Cognitive Function

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment and SUNY Upstate Medical University have found a link between green buildings and improved cognitive function.

“The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health” study found occupants of green-certified, high-performing buildings recorded 26 percent higher cognitive function scores. They also slept better and reported fewer health symptoms versus those in similarly high-performing buildings that were not green-certified. To conduct the study, two dozen participants spent six work days in an environmentally controlled office complex at the TIEQ lab at the Syracuse Center of Excellence.

Participants were exposed to conditions representative of conventional and green office buildings in the U.S., along with green buildings with enhanced ventilation. In addition, the research team artificially elevated carbon dioxide levels independent of ventilation. Green building conditions generated higher scores compared to conventional ones across nine functional domains.

The greatest cognitive function differences were seen in the areas of crisis response. Meanwhile, sleep quality scores were recorded as being 6.4 percent higher for participants in green-certified buildings. Overall, the researchers say, “participants reported better environmental perceptions and 30 percent fewer sick building systems in high-performing, green-certified buildings versus high-performing, non-certified buildings.”

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