Can going Green make our Buildings Sick?

October 6, 2009 at 9:25 pm 2 comments

This is a very serious potential situation.  We have had several episodes of “sick building syndrome” and if we aren’t careful the trend in building tighter, more efficient buildings may get us there again.

Let’s start with an excellent article on bnet (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3811/is_199904/ai_n8834877/) that goes into the history of sick buildings.  It has aa great definition of sick building syndrome from the World Health Organization:

Excerpt: “The classification is made based on the symptoms involved, the number of people having such symptoms, and the duration of the symptoms.5 The World Health Organization has classified the following complaints, or symptoms, under the category of sick building syndrome: (1) mucus membrane irritation – eyes, nose and throat; (2) toxic symptoms – headache, fatigue and irritability; (3) asthma and asthma-like symptoms – chest tightness and wheezing; (4) skin dryness; and (5) gastrointestinal complaints.6 The classification requires that more than twenty percent of the building occupants complain of such problems and that symptoms abate soon after the occupants leave the building.

The point that the article makes very elegantly is that we have tightened up the building envelope to create greater overall efficiency in regards to the heating and cooling of the spaces, but have neglected the additional sometime complex mechanical ventilation required to make these space livable and even viable long term. As a consultant I have seen many buildings with mold or other problems that can be directly attributed to poor air exchange.

As the article on Green Building Law Update(http://www.greenbuildinglawupdate.com/2009/09/articles/legal-developments/can-green-buildings-cause-sick-building-syndrome/) we seem to be heading down this road again. Only this time it may be from a slightly different cause, that of the off-gassing chemicals found in some building materials, especially formaldehyde. The above article is asking the question and I believe that the answer is probably yes, unfortunately.

This presents real problems, liabilities and dangers for building owners and those who live and work in them.  One site MedicineNet.com (http://www.medicinenet.com/sick_building_syndrome/article.htm) has an extensive page on multiple chemical sensitivity where you develop allergies and other medical problems from a sick building. I am sure you can all imagine the nightmare of worker comp claims, law suits and just the lost productivity in your business.

Certainly there are solutions to this problem, but they will all probably involve increased costs, longer return on investment scenarios because in order to do these more efficient, green buildings right requires experienced architects and engineers. It isn’t just the handyman with the caulk gun this time.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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Entry filed under: Design, Environment, Technology. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Can going Green make our Buildings Sick? | Asthma  |  October 6, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    […] View post:  Can going Green make our Buildings Sick? […]

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  • […] Can going Green make our Buildings Sick? « Askthefm’s Weblog askthefm.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/can-going-green-make-our-buildings-sick – view page – cached This is a very serious potential situation. We have had several episodes of “sick building syndrome” and if we aren’t careful the trend in building tighter, more efficient buildings may get us… (Read more)This is a very serious potential situation. We have had several episodes of “sick building syndrome” and if we aren’t careful the trend in building tighter, more efficient buildings may get us there again. (Read less) — From the page […]

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