Perkins Eastman Publishes New White Paper Linking School Modernizations to Improved Occupant Well-Being and Satisfaction
Washington, DC. – Top international design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman announces the publication of white paper “Investing in Our Future: How School Modernization Impacts Indoor Environmental Quality and Occupants.”
“Investing in Our Future” documents a design research study, conducted by Perkins Eastman in partnership with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and co-sponsored by J+J Flooring Group, which explores the impact that school improvements and modernizations can have on student and teacher well-being, satisfaction, and performance. With 53% of U.S. public schools in need of renovations or modernizations to be considered in good overall condition, and the cost totaling nearly $200 billion, this level of funding is no small ask for school districts and taxpayers across the country. This report offers strategies and justification for the considerable financial expenditure required to upgrade existing school buildings.
The white paper is co-authored by a group at Perkins Eastman comprising research and sustainability experts. Emily Chmielewski, leader of Perkins Eastman’s research practice, says: “Understanding—and improving—the impact of the built environment, particularly schools, has lasting effects, from improving occupants’ health and happiness to test scores and learning outcomes.”
The study was conducted at nine schools in DCPS—four non-modernized schools and five modernized schools. Elementary and middle schools were targeted, as these younger students are more influenced by environmental impacts due to their continued physical development and elevated respiratory rates. The case study schools included modernizations designed by Perkins Eastman as well as those designed by other architecture and design firms.
Perkins Eastman’s study is distinguished from other academic studies investigating Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in schools in that it was designed to examine multiple, concurrent factors—producing a more holistic picture than single variables studied in isolation can provide. In Perkins Eastman’s study, satisfaction levels increased between 9-18% for elementary and middle school students and between 30-45% for faculty in every measure, with statistically meaningful improvements in the modernized schools. These measures included: daylight, thermal comfort, acoustics, and air quality. The study’s conclusions could be used to help guide modernization projects in the District in the future.
“At DC Public Schools, we are proud of our efforts to ensure that every student has a world-class facility where receiving a high-quality education is the norm,” said Interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander. “We are thankful for Mayor Bowser’s robust investments in improving our school facilities and will keep pushing so that more students have beautiful, modernized buildings to call home.”
By showing that even minor improvements in IEQ parameters can significantly impact occupant satisfaction and well-being, this research becomes applicable to any industry—especially in educational, office, and healthcare environments—where occupant performance is significant.
This latest white paper builds on post-occupancy research Perkins Eastman has conducted at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., School in Cambridge, MA, which also established a correlation between key design strategies and occupant satisfaction and building performance. Other research studies performed by Perkins Eastman have supported these linkages outside of the K-12 environment as well.
“Investing in Our Future” is available for download here.