Sick Building Syndrome, Building Related Illness and Indoor Air Quality (Spring 2003) IPRO 335
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Sick Building Syndrome is a general category for a number of ailments, allergies, and complaints, all due to some physical aspect of a building, usually related to the ventilation system. The existence of low levels of pollutants, synthetic irritants, fungi or other microorganisms, or simply a lack of adequate fresh air, are sufficient factors to cause reactions in a percentage of building occupants. In 1997, we discovered that the slimy black mold has proven deadly in three Oakland County homes (R. Mishra, 1997). The sick building syndrome is a very serious problem, since we construct more and more tight building for energy-saving measures, chemical pollutants are not diluted and are continually recirculated throughout the building. Despite numerous investigations, journal articles and conferences, little has actually been proven about the causes of sick building syndrome. The causes are multiple and sometimes very difficult to detect. The only common denominator of Sick Building Syndrome is insufficient ventilation air to remove the contaminants. Inadequate ventilation has been considered to be a causal factor in 50 per cent of sick buildings in the United States and in 68 per cent of Canadian investigations (Melius 1984; Collet and Sterling 1988). Sometimes the source of the problem is microbial growth inside wet ductwork or other air-handling equipment. Air-conditioning systems themselves can harbour pollutants and micro-organisms and so add to the contamination of the building. In some new buildings the problem can be the use of synthetic materials (such as insulation or carpeting) which release hydrocarbons or other vapors into the air at a very low rate. In rare instances the outside air intakes may draw in foul air from waste storage or processing areas, or from parking areas heavily laden with auto exhaust. These cases represent bad ventilation system design. Major activities and tasks:- Understanding the sick building syndrome (Why good indoor air quality is important? What causes Sick Building Syndrome? The effect of poor indoor air quality on the life and health of people),- Literature revue to obtain rules and solution for each specific problem (new and retrofit buildings),- A methodology technique to diagnose a sick building.- Case study: each group of students analyze a sick building in the area of Chicago,- Use computer software to determine the level of indoor air quality in the building and how to improve it.- Expert System to help the designer to integrate the sick building syndrome in the building design: A number of rules should be developed to integrate expertise from different professional concerned with indoor air quality and sick building syndrome, using a questionnaire and face-to-face interviews. The sick building syndrome is a multidisciplinary problem since the causes of sick building syndrome are multiple, such as, contamination (inside and outside), material used to construct the building (formaldehyde, fiberglass), inadequate ventilation, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, cigarette smoking, humidity, noise and illumination, scabies, and other unknown syndrome. An interprofessional experience in different fields such as HVAC systems, Indoor air quality, Biology and medicine (allergies, molds, fungi), Maintenance, Building Science, Building Materials, and environmental engineering is needed.