Scholarly article on topic 'The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health'

The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Building and Environment
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{"Green certification" / "Office buildings" / "Cognitive function" / "Indoor environmental quality" / Buildingomics}

Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Piers MacNaughton, Usha Satish, Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, Skye Flanigan, Jose Vallarino, et al.

Abstract Thirty years of public health research have demonstrated that improved indoor environmental quality is associated with better health outcomes. Recent research has demonstrated an impact of the indoor environment on cognitive function. We recruited 109 participants from 10 high-performing buildings (i.e. buildings surpassing the ASHRAE Standard 62.1–2010 ventilation requirement and with low total volatile organic compound concentrations) in five U.S. cities. In each city, buildings were matched by week of assessment, tenant, type of worker and work functions. A key distinction between the matched buildings was whether they had achieved green certification. Workers were administered a cognitive function test of higher order decision-making performance twice during the same week while indoor environmental quality parameters were monitored. Workers in green certified buildings scored 26.4% (95% CI: [12.8%, 39.7%]) higher on cognitive function tests, controlling for annual earnings, job category and level of schooling, and had 30% fewer sick building symptoms than those in non-certified buildings. These outcomes may be partially explained by IEQ factors, including thermal conditions and lighting, but the findings suggest that the benefits of green certification standards go beyond measureable IEQ factors. We describe a holistic “buildingomics” approach for examining the complexity of factors in a building that influence human health.

Academic research paper on topic "The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health"

Accepted Manuscript

The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health

Piers MacNaughton, Usha Satish, Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, Skye Flanigan, Jose Vallarino, Brent Coull, John D. Spengler, Joseph G. Allen

PII: S0360-1323(16)30472-3

DOI: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.11.041

Reference: BAE 4723

To appear in: Building and Environment

Received Date: 27 June 2016

Revised Date: 23 November 2016

Accepted Date: 24 November 2016

Please cite this article as: MacNaughton P, Satish U, Laurent JGC, Flanigan S, Vallarino J, Coull B, Spengler JD, Allen JG, The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health, Building and Environment (2016), doi: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.11.041.

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The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health Authors

Piers MacNaughton1, Usha Satish2, Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent1, Skye Flanigan1, Jose Vallarino1, Brent Coull3, John D. Spengler1, Joseph G. Allen1


1 Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

2 Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, SUNY-Upstate Medical School, Syracuse, NY, USA Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

Corresponding Author:

Joseph G. Allen, DSc, MPH Assistant Professor

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

401 Park Drive

Landmark Center, 404-L

Boston, MA 02215


o: 617-384-8475

Short running title: Green Certified Buildings and Cognitive Function


Thirty years of public health research have demonstrated that improved indoor environmental quality is associated with better health outcomes. Recent research has demonstrated an impact of the indoor environment on cognitive function. We recruited 109 participants from 10 high-performing buildings (i.e. buildings surpassing the ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010 ventilation requirement and with low total volatile organic compound concentrations) in five U.S. cities. In each city, buildings were matched by week of assessment, tenant, type of worker and work functions. A key distinction between the matched buildings was whether they had achieved green certification. Workers were administered a cognitive function test of higher order decision-making performance twice during the same week while indoor environmental quality parameters were monitored. Workers in green certified buildings scored 26.4% (95% CI: [12.8%, 39.7%]) higher on cognitive function tests, controlling for annual earnings, job category and level of schooling, and had 30% fewer sick building symptoms than those in non-certified buildings. These outcomes may be partially explained by IEQ factors, including thermal conditions and lighting, but the findings suggest that the benefits of green certification standards go beyond measureable IEQ factors. We describe a holistic "buildingomics" approach for examining the complexity of factors in a building that influence human health.

Keywords: Green Certification, Office Buildings, Cognitive Function, Indoor Environmental Quality, Buildingomics

1 1.0 Introduction

2 Thirty years of public health science and building science have demonstrated that buildings play

3 a key role in shaping our health [1-5]. Buildings have the capacity to create conditions that are

4 harmful to health or conducive to health: they determine our exposure to outdoor pollutants, by

5 either facilitating entry of particles of outdoor origin indoors, or acting as a barrier and removing

6 them through enhanced filtration [6]; they govern exposure to chemicals of concern, such as

7 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), flame retardants and polyfluorinated compounds, which

8 can be ubiquitous or nonexistent, depending on the decisions we make regarding building

9 materials and products [7, 8]; buildings either protect us from noise or contribute to the problem

10 through the introduction of indoor sources, poor noise insulation, or poor acoustical design [9,

11 10]; they can induce eye strain or improve alertness through impacts on circadian rhythm,

12 depending on the lighting system [11, 12]; buildings can protect us during heat events, or create

13 environments that magnify the problem through solar heat gain [13, 14]; and buildings can either

14 wall us off from nature or connect us to it [15, 16].

15 The scientific literature around buildings and health has identified the foundations of a

16 healthy building including factors such as ventilation, air quality, thermal comfort, noise and

17 lighting, and this body of research has served as the basis for green certification standards to

18 define their indoor environmental quality (IEQ) guidelines. A review of leading, global green-

19 building standards - LEED New Construction 2009, Green Star Office v3, BREEAM New

20 Construction 2012, BCA Green mark for new non-residential buildings v4.1 2013, and DGNB

21 New Office v2012 - demonstrates the approach of these certification standards toward IEQ. All

22 of the rating systems offer credits for thermal comfort, indoor air quality (IAQ) and lighting; all

23 but LEED NC 2009 have credits for acoustics; and Green STAR v3 and LEED NC 2009 have

24 credits specifically for ventilation. However, building owners and developers can opt for certain

25 credits, and IEQ represents only 4-20% of the total score a building can obtain. Of the reviewed

26 rating systems, only LEED NC 2009 has mandatory IEQ credits, for minimum IAQ performance

27 and environmental tobacco smoke control [17].

28 The adoption rates of the optional IEQ credits in LEED NC 2009 give an indication of

29 how building owners are prioritizing certain aspects of IEQ [17]. We extracted the data and

30 found that the vast majority of projects obtain credits for low-emitting adhesives, paints and

31 flooring systems (Table 1). Increased ventilation is much less widely adopted, despite strong

32 evidence for health and performance benefits of higher ventilation rates [18, 19]. While some

33 credits are preferentially adopted and others not, buildings that seek LEED NC 2009 obtain on

34 average 9 of the 15 possible IEQ credits, not including the required fundamental commissioning

35 credit under the energy and atmosphere credit category.

36 Table 1. Credit adoption rates for select optional IEQ credits in 5,490 LEED New Construction

37 2009 certified buildings (USGBC, 2016)._

Credit_% Adoption

EQc2: Increased ventilation 40.9%

EQc4.1: Low-emitting materials - adhesives and sealants 86.5%

EQc4.2: Low-emitting materials - paints and coatings 94.4%

EQc4.3: Low-emitting materials - flooring systems 79.1%

EQc4.4: Low-emitting materials - composite wood and agrifiber products 58.6% EQc5: Indoor chemical and pollutant source control 40.7%

EQc6.1 EQc6.2 EQc7.1 EQc7.2 EQc8.1 EQc8.2

Controllability of systems - lighting 66.4%

Controllability of systems - thermal comfort 39.1%

Thermal comfort - design 79.4%

Thermal comfort - verification 59.2%

Daylight and views - daylight 19.5%

Daylight and views - views 38.3%

39 The literature suggests that these credits translate into improved IEQ. Our previous

40 review of green buildings and health identified 17 studies and found that, overall, occupants

41 report better IEQ and fewer health problems in these buildings compared to non-certified

42 buildings. These studies found lower levels of VOCs, formaldehyde, allergens, nitrogen dioxide,

43 and particulate matter in green buildings, which have been separately shown to impact health.

44 Six of the reviewed studies tracked the health of occupants in addition to IEQ, and all six found

45 improvements in the green buildings [20]. These include reduced asthma and allergy symptoms

46 in offices [21]; reduced respiratory symptoms, fewer sick building symptoms, and better self-

47 reported well-being in public housing [22-24]; and fewer medical errors and decreased mortality

48 in hospitals [25]. Of these studies, Newsham et al. used an approach similar to this study by

49 recruiting green and conventional office building pairs and measuring IEQ. They found an

50 improvement in IEQ, a reduction in symptoms, and better reported sleep quality in the green

51 buildings [26]. A follow up paper by Colton et al. published since the time of our review found

52 that in addition to fewer asthma symptoms, hospital visits and school absences were reduced in

53 the green certified public housing development [27]. Comparisons of buildings in poor condition

54 to green buildings provide an opportunity to see the biggest potential effect, but may falsely

55 attribute benefits to certification.

56 As part of our efforts to determine the factors that drive better human health in buildings,

57 we previously conducted a study in a controlled setting to investigate several IEQ factors -

58 ventilation, CO2, and VOCs - and their impact on cognitive function scores. We found

59 significant impacts on human decision-making performance related to all three of these factors

60 (Allen et al., 2015). Others have also found independent effects of ventilation, CO2 and VOCs on

61 cognitive function and other physiological responses at levels commonly found in indoor

62 environments [19, 28-31]. In this current study, we looked at buildings that are high-performing

63 across these indicators of IEQ and investigated the potential for additional benefits of green

64 certification on cognitive function, environmental perceptions, and health.

66 2.0 Methods

67 Study Design - Overview

68 Workers from 10 office buildings in five U.S. cities (two buildings per city) were recruited to

69 participate in a week-long assessment. 12 participants were initially recruited from each building.

70 Participants completed surveys about their health and environmental perceptions and took a

71 cognitive test on the Tuesday and Thursday of the assessment. All buildings are high-performing

72 buildings, defined as buildings surpassing the ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010 minimum

73 acceptable per person ventilation requirement and with low (<250 (ig/m3) TVOC concentrations;

74 however, six of the buildings were renovated to green via the LEED certification framework

75 while the remaining four did not seek green certification during renovation [32].

77 Participant and Building Recruitment

78 The building assessments took place in urban areas of the following cities: Boston,

79 Massachusetts (9/29/2015-10/2/2015); Washington DC (10/26/2015-10/30/2015); Denver,

80 Colorado (11/9/2015-11/13/2015); San Jose, California (11/30/2015-12/4/2015); and Los

81 Angeles, California (12/14/2015-12/18/2015 and 2/1/2016-2/5/2016). In each city, the buildings

82 were matched strictly by tenant and loosely by age and size (Table 3). In the first four cities, the

83 buildings were also matched by the dates of assessment, and the buildings were recruited such

84 that one building was LEED-certified and the other not. The goal of matching was to select two

85 high-performing buildings in each city that were as similar to each other as possible with the key

86 distinction being that one pursued LEED certification. In the last city, Los Angeles, two green

87 certified buildings were recruited and the assessments occurred on different dates due to an

88 earlier enrolled building dropping out of the study prior to the assessment; a second building was

89 subsequently recruited. The study team visited each building prior to the assessment to: 1)

90 perform a an initial assessment of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems,

91 2) ensure that the building classification as high-performing was valid, and 3) recruit

92 participants.

93 After obtaining permission from the building owner, building management and tenant, 12

94 participants were recruited to participate in a five day health assessment in each building. Final

95 participant numbers by building are presented in Table 3. As mentioned previously, the same

96 tenant was used in each city to ensure similar work functions, and all of the companies employ

97 primarily knowledge workers (i.e. administrative, professional, technical and managerial

98 positions). Asthmatics were excluded during recruitment. We did not restrict recruitment to

99 select areas of each building to limit potential selection bias, but we are unable to demonstrate

100 that our participants are representative of the building population. The study protocol was

101 reviewed and approved by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Institutional Review

102 Board. All participants signed informed consent documents and were compensated $100.

103 Table 2. Demographic breakdown of participants in each building classification

High-Performing High-Performing Green Certified Non-Certified

Number of Participants Gender Male Female

55% 45%

54% 46%

20-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70

39% 21% 21% 18% 1%

28% 33% 15% 15% 8%


White/Caucasian 70% 56%

Black or African American 6% 10%

Asian 7% 8%

Latino 7% 13%

Other 9% 13% Highest level of Schooling

High School Graduate 0% 10%

Some College 12% 26%

College Degree 63% 49%

Graduate Degree 25% 15% Job Category

Managerial 22% 10%

Professional 45% 54%

Technical 6% 18%

Secretarial or Clerical 18% 15%

Other 9% 3% Total Annual Earnings

<$50,000 34% 13%

$50,000-$75,000 21% 41%

$75,000-$100,000 10% 21%

$100,000-$150,000 27% 18%

>$150,000 7% 8%

1 Includes 2 participants in green certified buildings and 1 in non-certified buildings who did not complete the baseline survey

105 Building Assessment

106 The building assessment consisted of three parts. First, the study team conducted an inspection of

107 the building systems along with the building engineers from each facility. The study team

108 recorded the type and condition of the systems, how they are typically operated, and the

109 frequency of building commissioning tasks such as changing the filters. Second, the study team

110 characterized each test space. The test spaces were defined by the unique ventilation zones in

111 which the participants were located. The baseline assessment of the test spaces characterized the

112 building, office and cleaning materials in the space; the air supply and exhaust strategies; and the

113 environmental controls such as operable windows and thermostat set points. On each cognitive

114 testing day, a separate assessment was conducted of the ventilation rates, noises, odors and

115 occupancy in each test space. Lastly, the building manager was provided a survey asking about

116 general building information, building policies, and utility costs. All elements of the building

117 assessment were adapted from the EPA BASE study [33]. These elements were designed to

118 assess the building as a whole rather than just the IEQ of the participant's workstations. The

119 building assessments did not intend to validate the certification of building; therefore, we cannot

120 say whether the green certified buildings still meet the criteria for certification nor whether the

121 non-certified buildings would classify as a green certified building had they gone through the

122 certification process at the time of the study. We anticipate that the organizations responsible for

123 the non-certified buildings would seek certification if it was possible since the same

124 organizations did obtain certification for the green certified buildings in our study.

126 Table 3. Building characteristics of the 10 high-performing buildings included in the study

City Type Size (sq. ft) Year of Type/Year of Ventilation Number of

Construction Certification1 Strategy2 Participants

Boston Non-Certified <50,000 1929 NA CV, RC 12

Boston Certified <50,000 1929 LEED EB v3 Platinum in 2012 VAV, SP 12

DC Non-Certified >500,000 1935 NA VAV, RC 11

DC Certified >500,000 1917 Pending CV, SP 12

Denver Non-Certified 50,000-100,000 1938 NA CV, RC 8

Denver Certified 50,000-100,000 1938 LEED CI v3 Silver in 2011 CV, RC 12

San Jose Non-Certified 50,000-100,000 1971 NA CV, RC 9

San Jose Certified >500,000 1934 LEED EB v3 Gold in 2015 VAV, RC 12

Los Angeles Certified <50,000 1953 LEED EB v3 Platinum in 2013 VAV, RC 11

Los Angeles Certified <50,000 1929 Pending VAV, RC 10

1 EB = Existing Buildings, CI = Commercial Interiors

2 CV = Constant Volume, VAV = Variable Air Volume, SP = Single pass with energy recovery ventilator, RC = Partial recirculation with reheat

128 Environmental Assessment

129 A complete characterization of the IEQ in each test space was conducted on each cognitive

130 testing day. Each participant was outfitted with a Netatmo Weather Station (Netatmo, Boulogne-

131 Bellancourt) in their cubicle to measure temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide concentrations in

132 parts per million (ppm), and sound levels (in decibels) every 5 minutes for each participant. The

133 units were tested with 400 and 1000 ppm CO2 calibration gas before and after the field

134 campaign. If the sensor had drifted, the CO2 data was adjusted first by the offset from the 400

135 ppm reading and second by a scaling factor to match the 1000 ppm reading of the instrument to

136 1000 ppm. This process corrected both the intercept and slope of the collected data to match

137 experimentally derived values. The CO2 data was then used to produce ventilation (cfm of

138 outdoor air per person) and air exchange rates (ACH) for each participant-day of the study. For

139 ventilation rate, the 90th percentile CO2 concentration during occupied hours was taken as the

140 steady-state concentration of CO2 using the method described by Ludwig et al., and for air

141 exchange rate, the decays curves of CO2 were analyzed using the tracer gas method described in

142 ASTM Standard E741-11 [34, 35]. Briefly, when test spaces changed from fully occupied to

143 unoccupied, the rate of decay of occupant generated CO2 can be used to estimate air exchange

144 rates using the validated methodology set forth by ASTM. These approaches have some

145 limitations; for example, air from other zones with elevated CO2 levels can bias air exchange rate

146 calculations and assumptions about occupant CO2 generation rates may be inaccurate.

147 Air sampling was performed for 62 common VOCs and 14 common aldehydes in each

148 building in the test space with the most participants present during each cognitive testing day.

149 VOCs were collected using summa canisters according to EPA method TO-15. Aldehydes were

150 collected on an 8-hour integrated active air sample (0.4 L/min flow rate) according to EPA

151 method TO-11. ALS Analytical Laboratories conducted the analyses of these samples

152 (Cincinnati, OH). 25 VOCs and four aldehydes were not detected in any of the samples. Each

153 test space was also equipped with at least one commercial sensor package (FengSensor,

154 Tsinghua University, Beijing) to measure the same parameters as the Netatmo as well as light

155 levels in lux and particulate matter less than 2.5 (im in diameter (PM2.5) in (ig/m3. These sensors

156 were installed on the first day of the assessment (Monday) and collected on the final day of the

157 assessment (Friday).

159 Health Assessment

160 Participants were provided a Basis Peak Watch (Basis an Intel Company, San Francisco) for the

161 duration of the assessment, which tracked the participants' heart rate, skin temperature, galvanic

162 skin response, physical activity (i.e. steps and calorie expenditure) and sleep patterns (i.e. sleep

163 duration, tossing and turning, number of interruptions). The participants also completed a series

164 of questionnaires over the course of the study. The first was a baseline survey about their

165 perceptions of their work environment and health. The second survey was completed each study

166 day at the end of the workday, a total of five times for each participant, which asked about their

167 environment and whether they experienced any of 19 sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms

168 on that day. A follow-up survey was completed on the final day of the study asking questions

169 about the previous week, such as satisfaction with noise, lighting, thermal comfort and odors in

170 their cubicle. These surveys were adapted from the EPA BASE study as well and used in our

171 previous research on green buildings [30, 33].

172 Cognitive function was assessed using the Strategic Management Simulation (SMS)

173 software on Tuesday and Thursday at approximately 15:00. The participants completed two

174 different scenarios to avoid potential learning effects, and the frequency of each scenario was

175 balanced between green certified and non-certified buildings. The SMS tool is a validated,

176 computer-based test that measures higher-order decision making ability across nine domains of

177 cognitive function, ranging from basic activity levels to strategy. The SMS tool, and how to

178 interpret scores in each cognitive domain, has been extensively described in the literature [36179 38]. Briefly, the SMS tool immerses the participant in a 1.5 hour long real-life scenario, where

180 they have to respond to several plot lines that emerge over the course of the simulation. These

181 plot lines are validated for content and designed to capture cognitive functions representative of

182 productivity in the real world. As a result, validations of the SMS testing have found a high

183 degree of correlation between performance on the SMS test and other indicators of productivity

184 such as salary at age and number of employees supervised at age [36]. Participants are given the

185 flexibility to approach the simulation in their own thinking style, with no stated demands and a

186 wide breadth of available responses. The types of decisions and plans the participant makes and

187 the events to which they link these actions are processed by the software through a series of

188 algorithms that compute scores for each domain. The SMS study team is blinded to the building

189 status (green certified vs. non-certified). Participants' cognitive function scores on Tuesday and

190 Thursday were, on average, highly consistent. More detailed methodology about the cognitive

191 testing is described elsewhere [19, 29, 39].

193 Statistical Methods

194 The IEQ data collected in this study experienced building-level clustering, which was accounted

195 for with hierarchical statistical tests. Two-sample t-tests with clustered data were used to test for

196 significant differences in IEQ between green certified and non-certified buildings. For analyses

197 of participant outcomes, such as cognitive function and sleep, the data was additionally clustered

198 by the repeated measurements on each participant. Generalized linear mixed effect models were

199 used to model the associations between building classification and these outcomes, treating

200 participant ID and building ID as a random effect:

201 Cog.Scoreij k = /?i + /?2 * (Green Certified) -I- blt + b2i:k + e^^ (1)

202 where Cog.Score,jj: is the average cognitive score for subject i on day j in building k, normalized

203 to the non-certified, high-performing buildings; Pi is the fixed intercept; P2 is the fixed effect of

204 high-performing, certified buildings compared to high-performing, non-certified buildings; bn is

205 the random effect of intercept for subject i; and b2i.kis the random effect of intercept for building

206 k. Additional models were run with the following variables: job category, annual earnings, level

207 of schooling and thermal comfort as indicator variables and previous night's sleep as a

208 continuous variable. The residuals were normally distributed and homoscedastic for all models.

209 We used penalized splines to graphically assess linearity in the associations between continuous

210 variables and outcome measures.

211 The SMS tool provides raw scores for nine domains of cognitive function. To allow

212 comparisons between domains, the cognitive function scores were normalized to scores in the

213 non-certified building by dividing each score by the average score in the non-certified buildings

214 in that domain, as has been done in previous studies using the SMS test [39]. The average

215 cognitive score is an average score across the nine domains. Thermal comfort is a binary variable

216 that reflects whether or not a participant was within the thermal comfort zone specified by

217 ASHRAE Standard 55-2004 on any particular day of the assessment [40] (Figure SI). Relative

218 humidity and temperature from the Netatmo were entered in the Fanger thermal comfort

219 equations to estimate whether the percent of people dissatisfied with the thermal conditions

220 would exceed 10% [41]. We assume constant radiant temperatures (same as dry bulb

221 temperature), air velocities (0.15 m/s), metabolic rates (1 met), and clothing (1 clo) between

222 participants.

223 To assess sleep, we developed an index to characterize each night of sleep across three

224 well-known indicators of sleep quality: sleep duration, tossing and turning, and number of

225 interruptions. It was calculated using data from the Basis Watch for each night of sleep the

226 participants had during the assessment according to equation (2):

„ Sleep.Duration „ _„, Toss.Tivrn „„„, Num.Int

227 Sleep Score = 100%-----10%---10%--(2)

r 420 85 4 v '

228 where Sleep. Duration is the number of minutes the participant spent sleeping between 9PM and

229 9AM the following day, Toss.Turn is the number of minutes during which the watch registered

230 motion via the accelerometer (the maximum Toss.Turn in this study was 85), and Num.Int is the

231 number of times during a night of sleep that the sleep activity changed from asleep to awake and

232 then back to asleep (the maximum Num.Int in this study was 4). If the participant slept for longer

233 than 420 minutes, or 7 hours, the first term was capped at 100%. Nights when the watch was not

234 worn or worn improperly were removed from the analysis, resulting in a total sample size of 260

235 nights, 100 of which preceded a cognitive testing day. The average Sleep Score was 83.1% with

236 a standard deviation of 19.7%. Sleep Scores and thermal comfort were added to the model in

237 Equation 1 to test their effect on cognitive function. Analyses were performed using the open-

238 source statistical package R version 3.2.0 (R Project for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria).

240 3.0 Results

241 The non-certified buildings and green certified buildings had similar air quality; the low CO2,

242 low TVOC and high ventilation rates indicate that the buildings were high-performing at the time

243 of the assessment (Figure 1). The ventilation rates exceeded the ASHRAE 62.1 -2010 standard

244 for 84% of participants, which could mitigate the buildup of airborne contaminants. The green

245 certified buildings were on average brighter (374 lux vs. 163 lux), louder (51.8 dB vs. 48.9 dB),

246 and drier (38.4% vs. 45.9%) than the non-certified buildings; however, only the difference in

247 relative humidity was statistically significant (Figure 1). Differences in humidity may be driven

248 by the ventilation strategies in the green certified buildings, which more frequently had variable

249 air volume ventilation systems and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs). In the cases when

250 outdoor humidity was high, buildings with ERVs had lower indoor humidity levels.

Vent (cfm/person)


C02 (ppm)


TVOCs (jig/m3) PM2 J (ng/mä)

High-performing Green Certified

Temp (°C)

RH (%) =!=

Noise (dB) Light (lux)

Figure 1. Boxplots of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) parameters in high-performing, non-certified buildings and high-performing, green certified buildings. Vent, AER, CO2, Temp, RH and Noise are measured by the Netatmo in every workstation each day, TVOCs are measured with summa canisters in every test space each cognitive testing day, and PM25 and Light are measured by the Feng Sensor in every test space each day. An asterisk (*) denotes that the

257 building classifications are statistically significantly different from each other for that IEQ

258 parameter after adjusting for clustering by building.

260 Between-subject analyses were necessary to compare participants in different building

261 classifications. Table 2 shows the demographic information for the participants in each building

262 classification: the matching criteria resulted in the two groups having similar job classifications,

263 gender and ages. The green certified buildings had a slightly larger percentage of

264 white/Caucasian participants and participants with a college or graduate degree. These buildings

265 also had more participants at both the lower and higher end of the range of annual earnings. We

266 added these variables as predictors to the cognitive function models to test if they influenced

267 baseline cognitive abilities. While some of these variables had non-significant associations with

268 cognitive test scores, the effect estimate of building classification did not change when these

269 parameters were added to the model, indicating that the findings are not a result of residual

270 confounding.

271 The impact of building classification on each domain of cognitive function is summarized

272 in Figure 2. On average, participants in the high-performing, green certified buildings scored

273 26.4% (95% CI: [12.8%, 39.7%]) higher on the SMS cognitive test than those in the high-

274 performing, non-certified buildings (p-value < 0.001). Cognitive scores were statistically

275 significantly higher for 7 of the 9 domains with the largest impacts on crisis response, applied

276 and focused activity level and strategy. No differences in scores were seen for basic activity level

277 or information seeking. For the average scores, the model's R was 0.28, indicating that 28% of

278 the variability in cognitive function scores is explained by the building classification alone.

High-performing Green^CertifiscP

Basic Applied Focused Task

Activity Level Activity Level Activity Level

Crisis Information Information Breadth Response Seeking Usage of Approach

Strategy Average

280 281 282

03 Cl I

Cognitive Domain

Figure 2. Cognitive scores and 95% confidence intervals for each domain of the SMS tool after controlling for participant, normalized to high-performing buildings, for participants in high-performing and high-performing, green certified buildings

284 Of the IEQ parameters assessed in the buildings, the largest differences were seen for

285 relative humidity. The non-certified buildings were more frequently outside the ASHRAE

286 Standard 55 thermal comfort zone than the green certified buildings due to their higher

287 humidities (Figure S1). Both building classifications had participant-days where the building was

288 too cold to comply with ASHRAE Standard 55. After controlling for building classification,

289 participants scored 5.4% higher on the cognitive tests, averaged across the nine domains of

290 cognitive function, on days when they took the SMS test within the thermal comfort zone than

291 when they took it without (Figure 3). This finding is not statistically significant at the 95%

292 confidence level.

293 Previous night's sleep was also associated with cognitive function scores. A 25%

294 increase in Sleep Scores was associated with a 2.8% increase in cognitive function scores. Sleep

295 quality was influenced by day-time exposures in the office: participants in the green certified

296 buildings had 6.4% higher Sleep Scores than those in the non-certified buildings. This may be in

297 part a result of higher light levels in the green buildings; a 300 lux increase in illuminance during

298 the day was associated with a 2.9% increase in Sleep Scores that night. However, these findings

299 are not statistically significant (Figure 3).

304 Figure 3. Effect of a) thermal comfort on cognitive function scores, b) yesterday's sleep on

305 cognitive function scores, c) building classification on Sleep Scores, and d) light levels on Sleep

306 Scores, using generalized linear mixed effect models with 95% confidence intervals, treating

307 building and participant as random effects. The effect size for thermal comfort is comparing

308 cognitive scores from tests taken by participants within the ASHRAE Standard 55-2013 comfort

309 zone to those without. The effect sizes for yesterday's sleep and light correspond to a 25%

310 change in Sleep Score and 300 lux change in illuminance respectively.

312 In addition to improved cognitive function scores, participants in green certified buildings

313 reported better environmental perceptions and fewer symptoms than those in non-certified

314 buildings. Participants in green certified buildings were generally more satisfied with daylighting

315 and electrical lighting in their workspace, and less frequently reported the temperature being too

316 hot or too cold, the air movement being too much or too little, the air being too dry or too humid,

317 and the presence of chemical, tobacco and other odors (Figure S2). These perceptions are linked

318 to varying degrees to the monitored IEQ in the spaces. For example, relative humidities were

319 15.9% higher when participants reported the air was too humid and 9.3% lower when they

320 reported the air was too dry. Importantly, for the same change in monitored IEQ conditions,

321 participants in the green certified buildings report a larger improvement based on environmental

322 perceptions. Lastly, participants in the non-certified buildings reported 0.5 (30%) more

323 symptoms each day than those in the green certified buildings. Symptom counts are higher when

324 participants report an issue with environmental conditions. Environmental perceptions and total

325 symptom counts were not associated with cognitive function scores when introduced into the

326 mixed effect models.

328 4.0 Discussion

329 Previous research by our team, and others, has identified IAQ as a key driver of cognitive

330 function. In particular, CO2, TVOCs, and ventilation all have independent impacts on cognitive

331 function, even at levels deemed to be acceptable by the relevant codes and standards [19, 28, 29,

332 39]. Many office buildings on the market now fit the classification as high-performing by

333 surpassing the ASHRAE Standard 62.1 ventilation requirement and having low TVOC

334 concentrations (<250 (ig/m3). The findings of this study indicate that even among high-

335 performing buildings that meet these IEQ criteria, additional benefits to cognitive function and

336 health may be achieved by seeking green building certification. Participants in high-performing,

337 green certified buildings had better environmental perceptions, 30% fewer sick building

338 symptoms, 26.4% higher cognitive function scores and 6.4% higher Sleep Scores than

339 participants in the high-performing, non-certified buildings even after controlling for annual

340 earnings, job categories, and level of schooling. The reduction in self-reported symptoms and

341 improvements in environmental perceptions support previous research in green buildings [23, 24,

342 27, 30, 42]. Participant's environmental perceptions do track actual IEQ conditions, but

343 participants in green certified buildings are more likely to have a positive response even when

344 IEQ conditions are the same. This observation, along with participants reporting more symptoms

345 when they report problems with environmental conditions, highlights the limitations of using

346 subjective metrics when assessing building performance or occupant wellbeing. For the cognitive

347 function results, some of the domains that had the largest differences in scores (crisis response,

348 information usage, and strategy) are the most highly correlated with other measures of

349 productivity such as salary at age [36]. This aligns with Allen et al. that found these same

350 domains to be the most impacted by CO2, TVOCs and ventilation. By comparison, lowering

351 TVOC concentrations from -580 (ig/m3 to -40 (ig/m3 caused a 61% increase in cognitive

352 function scores in that study compared to 26.4% increase from working in a green certified

353 building in this study.

354 While much of the effect of green certification on cognitive test scores is unexplained,

355 the effect may be partly attributed to several IEQ parameters. The green certified buildings were

356 generally less humid than the non-certified buildings, and as a result a larger proportion of

357 participants in these buildings were in the thermal comfort zone defined by ASHRAE 55 (Figure

358 S1). Participants outside this thermal comfort zone scored 5.4% lower on the cognitive

359 simulations, but the finding was not statistically significant. The detriments to cognitive function

360 align with previous research on thermal conditions and performance. In a review of 24 papers,

361 Seppanen et al. found that work performance was optimized at temperatures within the ASHRAE

362 Standard 55 zone, and that the benefits were seen using various different indicators of cognitive

363 function ranging from simple cognitive tests to objectively reported work performance [43]. The

364 impacts on the SMS tool indicate that high order decision-making may also be affected by these

365 exposures.

366 Not surprisingly, our study suggests that previous night's sleep is a driver of cognitive

367 function scores. More interesting is that better Sleep Scores were associated with better lighting

368 conditions in the building. This is biologically plausible, considering previous research linking

369 exposure to daylighting or blue-enriched lighting before sleep to sleep repression. Warmer light

370 colors, such as those at dusk, trigger the body to release melatonin, which has a fatiguing effect,

371 and late-night screen use can delay or suppress the release of melatonin [44]. Similarly, a larger

372 contrast between daytime light exposures and nighttime light exposures leads to a larger

373 amplitude in daily melatonin secretion cycles [45]. Daylighting and blue-enriched lighting during

374 the day helps align the body's circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality at night [12]. This

375 effect was observed in our study: brighter lighting in the office during the day was associated

376 with higher Sleep Scores at night, and participants in the green certified buildings, which were

377 generally brighter, had 6.4% higher Sleep Scores than those in the non-certified buildings. This

378 finding supports previous research by Newsham et al. on sleep quality in green buildings [26].

379 Investigating real-world office buildings, as opposed to a simulated environment, posed

380 several limitations on the study. First, the case-control study design required between-subject

381 comparisons. To minimize baseline differences in cognitive function, we matched the buildings

382 by tenant and job categories. Adding annual earnings, level of education, and job category to our

383 models did not influence the effect size of building classification on cognitive function scores,

384 nor were these factors statistically significantly associated with cognitive scores. Second, the

385 environmental conditions were variable between buildings and could not be modified by the

386 study team. The variability in exposures also limits the ability for the factors we did measure to

387 produce a quantifiable effect. Third, missing data for some outcomes, such as sleep, reduced the

388 power of those analyses. Fourth, while the sample size of participants was sufficiently powered,

389 factors that vary on building level, such as ventilation system type, have a sample size of 10 and

390 were underpowered. With this sample size we were not able to identify which individual green

391 credits were drivers of better performance, nor were we able to obtain the same level of building-

392 related design data from the non-certified buildings (precisely because they did not go through

393 the certification process). As such, it is possible that green certification in our study may simply

394 be a proxy for more relevant indicators of building performance. Fifth, we assessed the IEQ of

395 the workstations of our participants, which may not be representative of the building as a whole.

396 During our building assessment, we did not observe major differences in building systems,

397 operation or maintenance for areas of the building in which we did not have participants. As the

398 buildings were all high-performing, the results of the study may not be representative of

399 conventional or problem buildings. In addition, the study population is representative of the

400 general population of knowledge workers and may not be generalizable to other worker

401 populations.

402 The findings in this study hint at the complexity of understanding all of the building

403 related factors that can influence human health and performance. The measured IEQ variables

404 only accounted for part of the impact of green certification on productivity and health. Other

405 aspects of the green certification process - such as commissioning of building systems, 3rd party

406 reviews of IEQ performance, and the commitment to sustainability and health of owners and

407 building managers - may play a role in how occupants perceive and perform in a building. Here,

408 we advocate for a holistic, "buildingomics" approach. Omics research describes efforts to

409 understand the totality of a given research field, currently best exemplified by genomics research

410 and the ambitious undertaking of the Human Genome Project. This has spurred a set of related -

411 omics research areas: transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, epigenomics. And, in the field

412 of exposure science, the relatively new and equally challenging efforts to characterize human

413 exposures over the course of a person's lifetime - the exposome [46]. We now propose

414 "buildingomics" to capture the complexity of the research of health in buildings.

415 "Buildingomics" is the totality of factors in indoor environments that influence human health,

416 well-being and productivity of people who work in those spaces. The primary challenge is that

417 buildings serve a variety of purposes and the potential exposures span several fields of study;

418 thus multi-disciplinary teams that include building scientists, exposure scientists,

419 epidemiologists, toxicologists, materials scientists, architects, designers, and social/behavioral

420 scientists are necessary to characterize all the building-related factors that influence health in

421 buildings.

423 5.0 Conclusions

424 Our findings show that in high-performing buildings additional benefits to health and

425 productivity may be obtained through green certification. In a sample of 10 high-performing

426 buildings, participants in green certified buildings had 26.4% higher cognitive function scores,

427 better environmental perceptions and fewer symptoms than those in high-performing, non-

428 certified buildings. This outcome may be partially explained by IEQ factors, including thermal

429 conditions and lighting, but the findings suggest that the benefits of green certification standards

430 go beyond measureable IEQ factors. Building-level factors may play an important role in

431 occupant health and cognitive function yet have been largely overlooked. We describe the need

432 for a holistic, "buildingomics" approach to studying the drivers of human health and

433 performance in buildings.

435 Acknowledgements

436 We would like to acknowledge our partners who allowed our team to investigate the impact of

437 buildings on their employees and tenants. We thank both the study participants and field staff for

438 volunteering their time. We also thank the reviewers of this manuscript for their thoughtful

439 comments that have strengthened the paper. This research was supported by a gift from United

440 Technologies to the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan

441 School of Public Health. United Technologies was not involved in the recruitment of buildings

442 or participants, data collection, data analysis, data presentation, or drafting of the manuscript.

443 Dr. MacNaughton's time was supported by NIEHS environmental epidemiology training grant

444 5T32ES007069-35.

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1. 26.4% higher cognitive test scores in high-performing, green certified buildings

2. 6.4% higher Sleep Quality scores in high-performing, green certified buildings

3. 30% fewer symptoms in high-performing, green certified buildings

4. Thermal comfort and sleep quality associated with higher cognitive scores

5. "Buildingomics": the totality of factors in buildings that influence health