Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) recently published an impressive study that examined the impact of indoor air quality on cognitive functions. The participants were exposed to three types of simulated indoor air conditions:  “conventional” with concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) typically found in buildings that have not been upgraded to green building standards; “green” with low VOC concentrations; and “green+” with low VOC concentrations and high outdoor air ventilation. The participants were not informed of which conditions they would be exposed to on a given day. 

EHP measured their performance and productivity in 9 different areas relating to cognitive function:

  • Basic activity level (the ability to make decisions at all times)
  • Applied activity level (the ability to make decisions geared towards overall goals)
  • Focused activity level (the ability to pay attention to situations at hand)
  • Crisis response (the ability to plan and stay prepared/strategize in emergency conditions)
  • Information seeking (the ability to gather info as required from different sources)
  • Information usage (the ability to use provided and gathered info towards goals)
  • Breadth of Approach (the ability to make decisions along multiple dimensions and use a variety of options to obtain goals)
  • Strategy (a complex thinking parameter, reflecting the ability to use well-integrated solutions)

The results found that cognitive scores were 61% higher in green building conditions, and 101% higher in green+ conditions, demonstrating that indoor air quality can have a marked effect on performance and productivity.

Read the full study here.