How Can Natural Ventilation Help Prevent Sick Building Syndrome?

More and more companies are looking at moving towards natural ventilation now more than ever. Whether it be a pandemic happening, cases of flu, colds, and general bugs going around, you want to help minimise the chance of your staff and customers from falling ill.

Staff taking time off can become costly to a business in the sense of productivity, work ethic, moral, and even revenue. It’s your duty of care to help keep them safe, happy, and 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 space with a lack of ventilation, working with chemicals in a closed environment, inadequate cleaning, and also the use of poor construction materials.

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

sick building syndrome solution

Evidence-Based Facts

In 1984, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a report which suggested that 30% of the new and remodeled 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 also.

One point drawn in the conclusion states “Lack of ventilation or low ventilation rates is associated with increased infection
rates or outbreaks of airborne diseases.” This finding can be applied to all businesses in the instance 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.

Depending on your building type, you may want to consider adding roof ventilators or wall louvers. 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. Factors such as heat, wind speeds, and the number of people in a room will be a variable to also consider. 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 they should be treated as such too. Companies such as Airocle will offer a team of specialised engineers to come and assess the building, calculating 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.