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Improvements on
Asset Performance

The Human Resource Factor

The Amenity That Costs More To Cut

Security and Protection Against Bioterrorism

An Interior Design Strategy

US Green Building Design


Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a crucial element when considering energy costs, maintaining optimal humidity levels for building maintenance and warding off what has become known as the “sick building syndrome.’’

The term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term "building related illness" (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality (IAQ). Often this condition is temporary, but some buildings have long-term problems.

Many facilities can’t afford to maintain a system to control humidity and/or are forced to operate contaminated systems, which emit disease-causing microorganisms. The result is a notable increase in employee illness (generally eye, lung and upper respiratory problems as well as allergies, colds and viruses).

Employee health and productivity are also at risk due to common but dangerous office toxins found in fibers (carpet, fabric, wall coverings) and solvents (wallboards, paints, varnishes, furniture). Specifically, formaldehyde is found in office foam installation, plywood, particleboard in desks and bookshelves, carpeting, paper goods and janitorial supplies. Benzyne is in offices rich with synthetic fibers, inks, plastics and tobacco smoke. Trichloroethylene comes from adhesives, inks, paints, lacquers and varnishes used in office buildings.

SBS develops into a serious and expensive liability when these toxins become concentrated inside sealed office buildings. NASA reports the syndrome is widespread in sealed, energy efficient buildings that have less exchange of fresh outdoor air
for stale indoor air.

According to several studies done by JCAHO, IAQ-related absenteeism has been on an alarming upswing. In recent studies, 40 percent of absenteeism was attributed to IAQ-related illnesses. Similarly, the same report demonstrates an increase of worker compensation claims from 1980 to 1994 for IAQ-related issues. The number of such cases rose by almost 5,000 claims within that period and has continued to rise over the last five years. The average cost of one of these claims is $27,850. What these claims do not account for is the cost to business for absenteeism of these individuals.



Article about the
facts about indoor air:

Indoor Air Facts-
Sick Building Syndrome


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