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Green buildings double cognitive function scores



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In the concrete jungle, green buildings come as a breath of fresh air. With a built-in architecture that is designed to bring respite from the many hazards that non-green structures are accustomed to, sustainable buildings leave an impact that is not just confined to the environment. The COGfx Study has analyzed the impact of green buildings on cognitive function through its 2-part study featuring Indoor Environmental Quality and Buildingomics respectively. In Study 1, a sample of 24 participants revealed that an improvement in indoor environmental quality doubled the cognitive function test scores.

Much has been said and written about the positive impact that green buildings have - on the eco-system, on physical health, on emotional well-being. But does it really affect cognitive function, and if yes, to what extent, are questions that have been waiting to be answered. The CogFX Study has demonstrated that improved indoor environmental quality doubled cognitive function test scores in the study comprising 24 participants. It was particularly noted that the participants' cognitive performance scores averaged 101 percent higher in green buildings with enhanced ventilation as against those in conventional buildings.

The study defines conventional buildings as typical offices, green buildings as those with low VoC and enhanced green as low VoC coupled with high ventilation. Cognitive functions included parameters like Information usage, Strategy, Crises response, Focused activity level, Breadth of approach, Applied activity level, Basic activity level, Task orientation and Information seeking. It was observed that the largest improvements in cognitive function came with Crises response, Information usage and Strategy. 

Crisis response scores were 97 percent higher in the green environment and 131 percent higher in the enhanced green environment than in the conventional building environment. Information usage scores in the green and enhanced green environments were 172 and 299 percent higher than in the conventional environment, respectively. For strategy, green and enhanced green scores were 183 and 288 percent higher than conventional. Hence occupants in the green and enhanced green buildings were better able to use both provided information and information that has been gathered toward attaining overall goals, leverage well-integrated solutions with the help of optimal use of information and planning as well as plan, stay prepared and strategize under emergency conditions.

The optimized environment for productivity in conventional buildings places Carbon di oxide levels at 950 parts per million (600 in enhanced green), ventilation rates at 20 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air per person (40 in enhanced green) and indoor VoC between 500 and 700 (less than 50 in enhanced green). 

The Principal Investigator of the study, Dr.Joseph Allen (Assistant Professor of Exposure Assessment Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School) says “This study suggests that indoor environments can have a profound impact on the decision-making performance of workers, which is a primary indicator of worker productivity. These results are provocative for three reasons. First, they suggest that the levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds that we commonly encounter in conventional office buildings are associated with decreases in worker performance compared to when those same workers are in green building environments. Second, when we enhance ventilation and optimize indoor environmental conditions, we see improvements in the cognitive function of workers. And third, these results fill important knowledge gaps in existing research about the relationship between green buildings and occupant health.”

The CogFX Study hence makes an important case for the significant impact that green buildings have on cognitive functions. Going forward, buildings will no longer be architected. Rather, buildings will be the architects of a brighter, sustainable and greener future. 


Infographics from the source have been recreated. 




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