Perkins&Will is dedicated to democratizing practical, evidence-informed healthy building strategies. Our research shows that both existing and newly constructed buildings can promote holistic student health and safety. After surveying hundreds of school stakeholders, interviewing healthy buildings advocates in our new podcast, Inhabit, and listening to facility managers, we have 3 pieces of advice for creating a holistically healthy school.
- Quit playing environmental whack-a-mole. For decades, schools selectively attacked one environmental problem at a time – indoor air quality, lead in drinking water, deteriorating insulation with asbestos or crumbling caulk containing cancer causing legacy pollutants. Instead, identify health challenges and physical spaces that need improvement. This inventory may illuminate multipurpose solutions like high background noise due to a loud HVAC system.
- Plan for uncertainty. School buildings are the largest piece of infrastructure in many communities and can be the first line of defense during the next pandemic or natural disaster. Let’s embrace the lessons learned during COVID and use them help us create and operate more resilient buildings.
- Advocate. Healthy schools don’t happen by accident. Support your local facilities staff by providing them resources to maintain building systems and invest in integrated pest management approaches. In the design and construction phase, do not let systems get value engineered out. Improved ventilation and filtration are critical for reducing asthma cases, infectious disease transmission (COVID, common cold, seasonal flu), and promoting cognitive function for teachers and students.
On this National Healthy Schools Day, let’s work together to create thriving schools at the heart of every community.