Maastricht University has now the healthiest university building in the Netherlands – This is why it matters!

After years of research, planning, constructing, and measuring, the Tapijnkazerne building of Maastricht University was awarded the International WELL Building Certificate. This certificate entails that a building fosters the well-being and health of its occupants. It is the first time a European university building has been awarded this standard. The Tapijnkazerne building is already used since 2021 for the education of the Business and Economics Master students, but it also hosts offices for employees [1]. This is certainly a great honour for Maastricht University. However, one can ask: Does it matter for students and employees? Or is it just a marketing campaign?

Decades of research have already shown that the indoor environment of buildings has a profound influence on the health, and productivity of humans [2-5]. Research has formed the term “Sick Building Syndrome”, which summarizes a feeling of unwellness, sickness, and reduced ability in mental tasks [6]. While the factors for this syndrome are numerous, some aspects are researched in more depth, including indoor temperature, lighting conditions, and air quality. So it is by no surprise that the WELL building certification sets value on these factors, including insights from research to optimize these parameters for human health and productivity [7]. However, the WELL certificate goes far beyond that, including access to clean water and healthy nutrients, fostering movement among occupants, as well as using non-hazarded material.

So, employees benefit from the investments, Maastricht University made in its building. Does students as well? Again, it is good to have a look at what researchers found out. Some past studies focused on the impact of air quality, temperature, lighting, and other environmental factors of school buildings on pupils’ and students’ academic performance. Also in this regard, the building environment has a strong impact, not only on the health of children but also on the exam grades school children and university students achieve [8-10]. Theories about the reasons for this are as numerous as environmental factors affecting academic performance. Nevertheless, most are grounded on biological and psychological foundations. Put simply, factors like hot or cold temperature, high levels of carbon dioxide and fine particular matter, and poorly illuminated rooms, disrupt various (neuro-) biological processes in the body. As a consequence, the body has to fight micro inflammations, maintain a sufficient oxygen supply of the brain, and regulate body temperature through sweating or slight shivering. All these processes require energy in form of calories. Energy, that cannot be used to perform optimally in cognitive tasks.

Which next steps does Maastricht University plan? The university board does not rest on its achievement. They have already started their research, examining the impact the Tapijnkazerne building has on the student performance of its students [11]. Therefore, the investments Maastricht University put into its facilities is a strong first step toward creating a healthier environment for its students and employees. Surely, it won’t be the last step.


[1] Maastricht University (2022). The healthiest university building is in Maastricht, Maastricht University, https://www.maastrichtuniversi...

[2] Du, B., Tandoc, M. C., Mack, M. L., & Siegel, J. A. (2020). Indoor CO2 concentrations and cognitive function: a critical review. Indoor air, 30(6), 1067-1082.

[3] Wang, C., Zhang, F., Wang, J., Doyle, J. K., Hancock, P. A., Mak, C. M., & Liu, S. (2021). How indoor environmental quality affects occupants’ cognitive functions: A systematic review. Building and Environment, 193, 107647.

[4] Zhang, F., de Dear, R., & Hancock, P. (2019). Effects of moderate thermal environments on cognitive performance: A multidisciplinary review. Applied Energy, 236, 760-777.

[5] Konstantzos, I., Sadeghi, S. A., Kim, M., Xiong, J., & Tzempelikos, A. (2020). The effect of lighting environment on task performance in buildings–A review. Energy and Buildings, 226, 110394.

[6] Tsai, D. H., Lin, J. S., & Chan, C. C. (2012). Office workers’ sick building syndrome and indoor carbon dioxide concentrations. Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene, 9(5), 345-351.

[7] International Well Building Institute (2022). WELL v2 Q1 2022, https://v2.wellcertified.com/e...

[8] Durán, N., Eichholtz, P., Kok, N., & Palacios, J. (2021). Indoor Air Quality and Student Performance: Evidence from A Large Scale Field Study in Primary Schools.

[9] Brink, H. W., Loomans, M. G., Mobach, M. P., & Kort, H. S. (2021). Classrooms' indoor environmental conditions affecting the academic achievement of students and teachers in higher education: A systematic literature review. Indoor air, 31(2), 405-425.

[10] Stafford, T. M. (2015). Indoor air quality and academic performance. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 70, 34-50.

[11] Maastricht University (2017). New UM building to serve as living lab for sustainable real estate, https://www.maastrichtuniversi...