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What is Sick Building Syndrome?


Nowadays, adults and children spend 80% of their time in closed or semi-enclosed spaces, part of which in public buildings and offices.

In recent years, health authorities have been increasingly confronted with “epidemics of unexplained symptoms” which occur in workplaces or inside public buildings (such as schools, offices or hospitals). These symptoms are varied, ranging from itching and rashes to nausea or migraines. They are not specific to a pathogen but seems to be closely related to the presence in the building. This is the reason why these health events have been grouped together under the name “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS).

SBS is characterized by symptoms experienced by several people in the same building during a working day. If 20% of occupants have these symptoms twice a week, it is called SBS. According to several estimations point out that a third of new or renovated buildings are considered as “Sick Buildings”.

How does it happen?

This syndrome is the result of a combination of factors that influence the indoor air quality, promoting the unease of the individual in a building:

  • Physical factors: temperature out of the range 17-22°C, relative humidity below 30% or above 65%, poor ventilation which mean a ventilation that does not allow air renewal more than 10 L/s, or poor air conditioning.
  • Chemical factors: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, pollen, environmental tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, cleaning products emitting fine particles, etc.

SBS consequences on employees.

According to a study carried out by 4 American researchers, air quality and sick building syndrome have an important influence on the productivity and well-being of workers, which results in a drop in productivity of up to 15%. We also note that this syndrome affects the presence of employees: an employee suffering from SBS symptoms will be missing 1,5 day more per year than a healthy employee (considering a company with 50 employees).

Diagnosis of Sick Building Syndrome

SBS symptoms can also be the result of other factors such as:

  • a change of organization
  • modification of working conditions
  • a significant workload

If none of these factors seem to be causing the collective unexplained symptoms, then it may be SBS.

Some symptoms that can be caused by SBS: headache, respiratory problems, skin irritation, feelings of stress and fatigue, irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin, dizziness, allergic manifestations, asthma.

How to prevent from Sick Building Syndrome?

To avoid this syndrome, it is necessary to limit the pollutants inside the building. Here are some recommendations:

  • Eliminate or reduce smoking
  • Maintain an ambient temperature that is neither too low nor too high (around 19°C)
  • Maintain a relative humidity rate between 40% and 60%
  • Choose the right equipment, materials and products for construction, decoration and furnishings, but also maintenance and DIY to avoid VOCs and other pollutants

Because ventilation impact the presence of pollutant in the indoor air, the indoor temperature, and the relative humidity, it is considered as the most important parameter to prevent from SBS. For that reason, it is essential to install a good ventilation system: properly sized to premises and reliable. The maintenance of its ventilation system is a crucial point as well, to ensure good prevention from SBS for a long term.

Following that purpose, our VTZ and VCZ roof fans made in Germany, are designed to provide a good indoor air quality with a very low maintenance need. Moreover, thanks to its built-in pressure regulation, VTZ and VCZ roof fans are compatible with our DCV concept that brings the right amount of air to the occupant at the right moment. Combined to highly efficient EC motors, Aereco guarantee a reliable and efficient ventilation system with minimal energy consumption.

The studies focused on public buildings, but the SBS also exists in our homes. This phenomenon is accentuated by the increase in homeworking due to the Covid19 pandemic. This pandemic is the opportunity to focus more on ventilation systems and indoor air quality.

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