This proposed study investigates the relationship between LEED™ schools alternative transportation strategies and sustainable land use credits and their impact on academic performance and health in K-12 schools. It also attempts to place a value on the importance of alternative transportation strategies and programs in schools by linking their availability to students’ health and academic achievements as well as environmental quality metrics of school facilities. There is a current knowledge gap in the reliability of findings linking LEED rated buildings in general, and transportation strategies in particular to human performance, health, and well-being of occupants. This problem is magnified in school environments as most previous research has resulted in inconclusive evidence leading to speculative relationships between alternative transportation policies and their application in schools. This knowledge gap is due to three main reasons: First, previous studies that focused on case studies tended to be anecdotal and lacked external validity beyond the case in question or the context of the findings. Second, studies that focused on broader strategies studying larger populations--such as transportation trends or education on behavior--used a survey approach with week internal validity. These studies could not confirm a relationship between specific design elements, such as availability of bike shelters and changing rooms in schools and their impact on biking behavior. In addition, many of the large survey studies lacked a clear differentiation between the impact of programs that target physical environmental changes in transportation patterns to programs of an educational nature that target awareness. The third and perhaps the most important gap in knowledge is the failure of both approaches to uncover the mechanisms and mediational effects between transportation-related physical elements of the environment (including specific land zoning of schools and site choices) and human health. These mediational mechanisms, might include but not limited to, circadian rhythms, body-mass index (BMI) hypertension, physiological effects that help induce alertness, and other mechanisms that impact occupants performance in buildings.
To overcome limitations in previous studies, this interdisciplinary/inter-institutional research project intends to target this problem through a comparative study of transportation and Land use design strategies of the four LEED rated schools and four non-rated schools in Oregon. The theoretical sample of schools studied will control for the variables studied between those that achieved LEED Sustainable sites and transportation credits to those that did not achieve these credits. In addition, we will explore other alternative transportation strategies and programs employed by the school settings under study and compare their impacts on overall students’ health and academic performance measures in the studied schools. The result of this investigation will be translated to evidence-based design guideline linking LEED and transportation/sustainable site credits to quantifiable health and performance outcomes that are meaningful to decision makers and policy makers. We plan on publishing a set of evidence based design guidelines for transportation strategies integration in green schools as well as paper and conference publications. This knowledge dissemination will also aid schools designers and planning professionals in designing green schools for future generations of healthy students. Findings from this study could create a market transformation shift in the way we design, cost-estimate, and operate transportation strategies and programs in green schools.