Though the signs are often well-hidden, the effects of the phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome” (SBS) cannot be overstated. Defined generally as nonspecific symptoms of the occupants within a building (generally including allergies, headaches or respiratory issues such as asthma), SBS most often originates from the formation of molds, fungus, viruses and bacteria in the presence of moisture in a facility. This is one of many reasons moisture mitigation solutions are taken seriously.
In office buildings with dense occupancy, SBS can be more pronounced as disease travels faster from person to person. This can be especially problematic in hospitals and schools, where occupant proximity is more common and the spread of disease is heightened. Causes of SBS are varied and several factors are potentially at play when diagnosing the problem.
Sick Building Syndrome Causes
Poor Ventilation — Faulty heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can easily play a role in worsening SBS. Reducing the amount of outdoor air exposure won’t necessarily solve the problem. Regulations do exist; the standards created by The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) state that the minimum outdoor air flow rate should reside at 15 cfm per person in order to provide satisfactory ventilation. The level of required ventilation increases in office spaces and smoking lounges to 20 cfm/person. A building’s design can contribute to the failure of facility ventilation if not properly planned.
Presence of Indoor Contaminants — The presence of stagnant or abundant water provides the breeding grounds for fungus, molds, and bacteria. Air-conditioning systems can recirculate hazardous pathogens, causing potentially perpetual health issues with facility occupants. Wherever water collects (yes, even moisture released from concrete) increases the risk of producing contaminants that fuel SBS.
Outdoor Contaminants — Pollen, pollution from motor vehicles, smoking (also a potential indoor contaminant), and building exhausts pose potential threats to increase SBS. These contaminants can enter through windows, vents, and doors, among other openings.
Rapid-Drying Concrete as a Preventative Measure to SBS
Rapid-drying concrete helps prevent SBS by essentially eliminating water vapor emissions in a concrete slab. While the primary concern from high water vapor evaporation rates typically involve flooring failures, the overabundance of moisture in a concrete slab can potentially contribute to hazardous pathogen growth. As a developer, the safety of occupants should be a primary concern during the design of a facility. The mitigation of moisture-related health issues starts with considering the barebones materials of your project including an unlikely culprit — concrete.