Good building design relies on natural ventilation to create a healthy home or workplace. In recent years, and especially since the onset of the global pandemic, companies are increasingly prioritising well-ventilated spaces and indoor air quality to keep their employees and customers healthy.

Employee wellbeing is an important aspect of a successful business. Staff taking time off work due to illness can cost the company heavily in terms of productivity, revenue and morale. As a responsible employer, it’s your duty of care to keep them safe, healthy and happy in an optimal environment. One of the ways you can do this is to ensure you steer clear of sick building syndrome.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick building syndrome, also known as SBS, is a condition where building occupants experience a level of illness and/or discomfort. While the exact cause is unknown, evidence suggests it can be from sharing a small, badly-ventilated space, working with chemicals in a closed environment, inadequate cleaning, and also the use of poor quality building materials.

Symptoms of SBS can range from headaches to cramping, sinus infection, dry cough, fatigue, swelling and cancer, and can even lead to miscarriages in pregnant women. It’s a controversial topic in the medical field as some researchers believe the source of infection is internal, while others attribute it to external factors. Regardless of the debate, evidence suggests it exists, although additional tests are always being conducted.

Sick building

Evidence-Based Facts

In 1984, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report, which suggested that 30% of new and remodelled buildings worldwide suffer from poor indoor air quality. A revised version was created in 2009, specifically for the health industry. It looked at infection control in an environment with natural ventilation, without, and with mechanical ventilation.

One of the findings stated that “lack of ventilation or low ventilation rates is associated with increased infection rates or outbreaks of airborne diseases”. This can be applied to all businesses in the event of a disease outbreak or general illness within the working environment. Changing the airflow through the room is likely to help prevent infection, with factors being taken into consideration on the building space, use, and airflow possibilities.

Combating Sick Building Syndrome

To help create a better working environment, it’s recommended to add natural ventilation to your building, or even consider mechanical ventilation. The initial set-up can be costly; however, not having it could be arguably just as expensive.

Sick building

Depending on your building type, you may want to consider adding roof ventilators or wall louvres. This can increase the optimised airflow through the building, resulting in fewer sick days and overall illness. If you decide that natural ventilation is needed for your building, ensure that you have someone assess your needs first.

Different businesses will require different airflow changes within an hour. Variable factors such as heat, wind speeds, and the number of people in a room will also need to be considered. Using 360° technology, you will be able to calculate this rate needed for you by using thermal imaging and taking into consideration ASHRAE standards.

Each business is unique – so will be the assessment. Consult with Airocle and get your building assessed by a team of specialised engineers, who will calculate wind speed, direction, and how to utilise airflow around your building. Your staff will be thanking you in the long run for investing in their future and their health.