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3 Things to Know About Sick Building Syndrome

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Commercial HVAC systems make it possible to comfortably heat and cool multi-floor office buildings. Better yet, today's HVAC technology allows building owners to maximize comfort while keeping costs at a bare minimum. Better air circulation and filtration also helps to cut down on disease and contagious illnesses. 
Yet in certain cases, a commercial HVAC system may lead to the phenomenon known as sick building syndrome. Unfortunately, many people fail to understand this mysterious problem, which can seriously affect the health of workers. If you would like to learn more about promoting healthy conditions in your office building, read on. This article outlines three key things to know about sick building syndrome. 

1. Sick Building Syndrome Often Stems From Tight Envelopes

Sick building syndrome has become more prevalent as commercial buildings have become more energy efficient. The important factor here comes down to the tightness of the building's envelope. The term tightness refers to the presence of air leaks. A building with a tight envelope suffers from fewer air leaks - and hence less energy loss. 
The effort to tighten a building's envelope brings many benefits, with lower heating and cooling costs being one of the most dramatic. Yet along with a greater efficiency, tight envelopes often lead to problems for the air quality inside of a building. Ironically, those air leaks often improved air quality by allowing fresh air to penetrate into a building. 
Without an influx of fresh air, an HVAC system recirculates the same air over and over. As a result, contaminants and micro-organisms often build up in the air to unhealthy levels. Such contaminants include everything from carbon monoxide to volatile organic compounds off-gassed by building materials to bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. 

2. Sick Buildings Affect Over 20% of Workers

Sick building syndrome often proves tricky to diagnose, especially in its early stages. For one thing, affected individuals do not always share the same symptoms. Sick building syndrome may manifest as a variety of problems, affecting your skin, mucus membranes, and respiratory system. 
Relatively benign symptoms may include coughing, itchy and/or watery eyes, a runny nose, and itchy, dry skin. As air quality continues to plummet, individuals may develop inexplicable dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Fatigue and difficulty concentrating often follow. The symptoms of sick building syndrome often puzzle doctors, who often fail to identify any specific underlying illness.
Another key feature of sick building syndrome has to do with the timing of such symptoms. Although the symptoms may grow incredibly acute while inside, they often dissipate quickly once you vacate the building - only to recur again the next time you enter the building. Once more than 20 percent of occupants develop symptoms, the building officially earns the designation of sick building. 

3. Air Purifiers Alleviate Sick Building Syndrome

Many building managers assume that to eliminate sick building syndrome, they should upgrade the air filters used in their HVAC system. Yet even highly selective HEPA filters have distinct limitations in terms of what they can remove from your air.
Air purification systems offer much more thorough results. These systems incorporate HEPA filters, along with other technologies used to capture and/or destroy other contaminants. Some systems use electrostatic precipitators to collect even the tiniest of particles. Other styles use ultraviolet light to kill off any living pathogens in the air. 
One of the most effective air purification options available uses a process known as photo electrochemical oxidation. Such systems can effectively destroy pollutants up to 1000 times smaller than what HEPA filters can capture. 
Sick building syndrome can severely impact the workers in your building. For more information about how to avoid this common problem, contact Orlando's commercial HVAC experts at Matthew Roberts Incorporated.