Air quality isn’t just nice to have at work, school, or home. Many Americans have heard about Sick Building Syndrome for years, but most building owners do nothing—or don’t know what to do to rectify—their sick building.
The number of circulating chemical toxins, including formaldehyde, flame-retardants, and VOCs, are known to affect human health. The total impact of breathing in particles, fumes, and toxins over time is an important and growing area of medical research. If you’d like to learn more about why air quality is such an important factor in productivity and wellness, contact Sustainable Investment Group to learn more.
Defeating Sick Building Syndrome
Working in some buildings tends to negatively affect the health of people who spend time there. Symptoms like sore throat, wheezing, tight chest, irritated nasal or sinus passages or mucous membrane issues are frequent in the building population. Researchers say these symptoms result from Sick Building Syndrome, or SBS.
NIH studies say that working in a sick building can increase absenteeism, decrease workers’ ability to make good decisions or decrease productivity as a whole. In a commercial, medical care, or educational setting, these factors can cause the building owner or business to absorb huge costs:
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some companies spend up to 90 percent of operating costs of staff compensation.
- Employees’ “poor morale” might be the result of a sick building. According to WELL standards (link to post about WELL) includes addressing internal temperature controls, CO2 levels, ventilation, air velocity, odors, dust, humidity, and more:
Researchers in Finland report that higher building temperatures (about 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) can promote SBS symptoms.
Air temperature and radiant temperatures should be considered. Radiant heat from hot surfaces, electrical equipment, ovens, etc., can increase the building’s temperature and should be considered when evaluating building health and safety.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Higher CO2 levels (800-1000 ppm) cause people to perceive them as stuffy, but higher levels (above 1000 ppm) can increase SBS symptoms. Researchers around the world report that inhabitants feel better when CO2 levels are reduced (600 ppm or less).
According to UC Berkeley research, better ventilation rates (per person) can reduce the frequency of Sick Building Syndrome symptoms. Improved ventilation reduces CO2 concentrations and, although a direct link between CO2 levels and SBS ailments has not been proven, CO2 levels combined with other indoor environment pollutants are thought to promote SBS symptoms.
Various researchers believe that adequate ventilation, clean HVAC filters, proper HVAC function. and air flow direction adjustments can help reduce SBS.
Air velocity is an important thermal comfort consideration. Adjusting the speed of air movement on the skin of building inhabitants can make them feel cool on a warm day, but uncomfortable drafts may also result when air leaks occur.
Build or furnishings in the building can be detrimental to inhabitants of the building. In contrast, natural scents can help them feel energetic or relaxed.
Improving air filtration and providing regular HVAC cleaning can reduce dust levels. A higher level of dust in the air can promote dust allergies over time.
Relative humidity in the building, a measure of the ratio between water vapor in the air and the maximum amount it can hold at a stable temperature) should be evaluated. People feel less well in a high humidity environment. Higher humidity in the air (above 70 percent) can contribute to SBS symptoms and facilitate growth of mold or other health-averse organisms in the environment.
Why Air Quality Should Concern You
If you’re concerned about post construction air quality, there are two primary options to ensure healthful air quality after renovation or construction activities. LEED offers “flush-out” or air sampling methods. Sustainable Investment Group (SIG) is here to help you measure indoor air quality so that you know precisely what TVOCs and/or formaldehyde are circulating in your building.
Most project teams simply aren’t equipped to record actual airflow within the building, then test and/or balance a complex HVAC system. Adding sub-consultants is usually required to perform these necessary tasks.
That’s one of the best reasons to hire us. To effectively manage your timeline and costs, hire SIG. We can handle all facets of your air quality issues in-house and we work with nationwide owners. Contact Scott Baker today at 404-343-3835.
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