Category: Air Quality
A term that is being used a lot more these days is Sick Building Syndrome or SBS. What is Sick Building Syndrome? Wikipedia defines it as: “A condition in which people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or become infected with chronic disease from the building in which they work or reside.” Sounds a little scary. SBS can affect the health as well as the productivity of people working in the building. This is not a new concept and now it is expanding to Sick Home Syndrome. As more people are spending more time indoors making sure your home or workplace is “healthy” is even more important. A lot of issues boil down to the Indoor Air Quality of the area. There are some fairly simple things you can do to identify issues in your workplace/home. They can be broken down into three areas of concentration:
Common Symptoms Between Occupants
Are there any common symptoms with people sharing the area? Do people complain about headaches, dizziness, being stuffy and so forth? Do they say it gets better when they are outside of the space? Many of these symptoms can look the same as allergies but can also be a tell tale sign of something bigger. Common symptoms are a big one as if people are experiencing symptoms; it probably means something needs to be addressed immediately.
Are there any signs around the office or home such as mold or mildew growing or large areas of dust or dirt build-up? Are there items being stored indoors that shouldn’t be – gas, paint, cleaners or other odor emitting items? We refer to this as stopping it at the source.
Are there any smells that seem stagnant or just bad – think old socks. Some people will describe a “moldy” smell – that is not good and means that something is contaminating the air. Even good smells can be harmful (not all, but some can). Scented sprays, candles, aromas from cooking can smell good, but can also be contaminating the air.
Okay, now that we have identified the issues, what do we do now? Some solutions are certainly simpler than others. In the case of contaminates being stored indoors – move them outside the living or working area. Others are a little more complicated and difficult to address. We suggest a three-phase approach:
As we already stated, remove any contaminants that are contributing to bad indoor air quality but remove can also apply to the air. Properly using all of your exhaust fans (bath fans, range hoods and so forth) can have a huge effect on your IAQ. Exhausting stale, bad air removes it from being breathed in or staying stagnant. A good example of this is a smoky bar. Thankfully most bars and restaurants no longer allow smoking inside but go with us with this. If there is no ventilation, the bar continues to fill up with smoke to a point that you can’t see two feet in front of you. Now you and everyone else in that bar are breathing in the cloud of smoke (contaminants). Add ventilation to the mix and that smoke is directed out of the bar greatly reducing or even eliminating any smoke in the room. While most workplaces don’t allow smoking indoors, people are exhaling carbon dioxide and other contaminates are building up just from the normal daily activities. If they are not being directed outside of the building, that means they are staying stagnant inside and being breathed in just like that cloud of smoke in the bar example.
Part B of Remove is diluting or more accurately, replacing the air you remove with fresh air. This can be done by opening a window or door or using a mechanical solution such as the Air King QFAM that brings controlled and filtered air into the space. This creates a constant exchange of air that prevents contaminants from building up in the space.
Making sure the HVAC system is properly fitted with effective air filters that are maintained on a regular basis is a must. The system should be using the highest rated filter that is can without decreasing the performance of the unit. In older systems adding additional filtration devices might be necessary.
So the bad news is that Sick Building Syndrome is a real thing that needs to be addresses and can cause issues at home and work. The good news is that it can be addresses and improved. While there is no magic solution or one size fits all remedy, using the technics suggested can have a positive impact on the Indoor Air Quality of your home or workspace. If you believe your building or home is “sick”, we suggest consulting a HVAC expert who can assess and test your space and help you identify how to increase your indoor air quality.