Is Our Biggest Error– Our Air?

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If a school or business wants to boost productivity and performance, the answer may be hiding, invisibly, right under their noses.  And in their lungs. 

That’s right, air.  According to The COGfx Study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Syracuse University Center of Excellence, and SUNY Upstate Medical School, increasing the supply of clean air may boost cognitive functions—how we learn and make decisions– by over 100 percent.  

The largest improvements were found in three domains:

Crisis Response: 131%    Strategy: 288%    and Information Usage: 299%.  

(Note:Any thoughts on where we could use some brain boosting ventilation?  White House?  Pentagon?  Tweet Room?) 

The study compared the levels of Co2, VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and ventilation in   convention building conditions, green buildings, and green with enhanced ventilation.

  • Conventional: typical (~500 ppm) volatile organic compound (VOC) levels and 20 cfm outdoor air per person
  • Green: VOC levels reduced to approximately 50 ?g/m3 and 20 cfm outdoor air per person
  • Green with enhanced ventilation: VOC levels reduced to approximately 50 ?g/m3 and 40 cfm outdoor air per person

The study showed a 61 % increase in cognitive function in green buildings compared to conventional buildings, and a 101% increase in cognitive function in Green buildings with enhanced ventilation.

Granted, this is a small study in a controlled office environment.  But these large effects should start us thinking about our opportunities to improve the performance of those who learn, work and live in our buildings.   

What would it be worth to flip a switch and significantly improve the cognitive performance of the students at your school or the employees at your business?  

 

In a March 2017 presentation at the NFTM conference in Baltimore, Christopher Walinski of Munich Reinsurance, America, discussed how his team is applying enhanced ventilation to an office area on their campus in New Jersey.  The team has reduced energy use at their campus by 50% since 2007, and they are using occupancy sensors to manage the additional ventilation efficiently.  The team is using plants in area planters and green cleaning to help lower VOC levels. 

This work is not a study and they are not collecting data on occupant performance, but occupant comments have been positive.  They are tracking the lowering of the Co2 levels (average of 514 in the test space vs 655 in similar office areas).     The team expects to expand this enhanced ventilation to more areas on their campus in the future.  They may be creating a template for other building managers to follow as they look to improve the productivity and health of their occupants. 

 

In a second study, Cogfx2, the researchers examined ten office buildings in five cities and found that high performing, green certified buildings outperformed high performing, uncertified buildings.

  • 4% higher cognitive test scores in high-performing, green certified buildings.
  • 4% higher Sleep Quality scores in high-performing, green certified buildings.
  • 30% fewer symptoms in high-performing, green certified buildings.
  • Thermal comfort and sleep quality associated with higher cognitive scores

 

       Read the report: http://naturalleader.com/thecogfxstudy/study-2/view-the-report

  

 As we looked for the cause of bad decisions and poor performance, our first question has been 

“What were you smoking?!”

With what we are learning about cognitive function and ventilation, our second question should be

“What were you breathing?”

 

 

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