Is Your Building Making You Sick? Recognizing and Preventing Sick Building Syndrome


“Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea.” – Yoshio Taniguchi

Have you ever noticed that you feel sluggish, headachy, or just plain “off” after spending time in a certain office building, school, or even your own home? You might not be imagining it- you could be experiencing Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

In the modern era, where a significant portion of our lives is spent indoors, the quality of the indoor environment has a profound impact on our well-being. However, the increasing prevalence of “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) has brought attention to the potential hazards lurking within the walls of our workplaces, homes, and public spaces. This phenomenon, characterized by a range of symptoms related to spending time in a particular building, has become a pressing concern for health and safety experts.

Understanding Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome is a term used to describe a range of nonspecific symptoms that individuals experience while inside a particular building. These symptoms typically occur without any identifiable cause, making it challenging to pinpoint the root of the problem. Common manifestations of SBS include headaches, eye irritation, fatigue, dizziness, and respiratory issues. While the symptoms are generally temporary and alleviated upon leaving the building, their regular occurrence can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.


The symptoms of SBS can vary depending on the individual and the building’s specific issues. Common symptoms include:

● Respiratory problems: Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

● Headaches and dizziness

● Fatigue and difficulty concentrating

● Skin irritation

● Nausea and dizziness

Who is most at risk?

While anyone can develop SBS, some groups are more susceptible, including:

● Individuals with allergies or asthma

● People with weakened immune systems

● Children and older adults

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

The exact cause of SBS is unknown, but it’s believed to be a result of multiple factors, such as:

● Poor indoor air quality: This can be caused by inadequate ventilation, high levels of pollutants such as dust, mold, and chemicals, and exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from building materials and furnishings.

● Poorventilation: Inadequate ventilation can lead to a buildup of indoor pollutants and insufficient oxygen levels, contributing to SBS symptoms.

● Improper temperature and humidity control: Both too high and too low temperatures and humidity levels can create discomfort and contribute to SBS symptoms.

● Biological contaminants: Mold, bacteria, and dust mites can grow in damp and poorly ventilated buildings, causing respiratory irritation and other symptoms.

● Psychological factors: Stress and anxiety can contribute to or worsen symptoms.


Several measures can be taken to prevent SBS, including:

● Maintaining good indoor air quality: Regularly cleaning and maintaining ventilation systems, using low-VOC building materials and furnishings, and controlling indoor humidity levels.

● Implementing proper ventilation: Ensuring adequate fresh air intake and exhaust of stale air

● Controlling temperature and humidity: Maintaining comfortable room temperatures and humidity levels.

● Identifying and addressing contaminant sources: Identifying and addressing sources of mold, dust, and other contaminants.

● Promoting occupant awareness and education: Educating building occupants about SBS and how to prevent it. If you suspect you may be experiencing SBS:

● Consult a doctor: They can help diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend treatment.

● Report the issue to building management: They can investigate the cause of the problem and take necessary steps to improve indoor air quality.

● Consider reducing time spent in the building: If possible, try to spend less time in the building, especially if your symptoms worsen when you are there.


SBS is a complex issue with no single solution. However, by taking steps to improve indoor air quality and working with building management, you can help prevent or reduce your risk of developing symptoms.

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