Do you experience acute health and emotional effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, without a specific illness or cause?  If so, you may be experiencing what is called sick building syndrome.

Complaints of headaches, itchiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and throat irritation have all been connected to workers spending countless hours in sterile office spaces.

Indoor Air Quality

Poor air quality has been identified as a leading cause of sick building syndrome.  

Beginning with the introduction of stricter energy conservation standards in the 1970s, efforts have been underway to make buildings more energy efficient.  This translates into less ventilation.  Less ventilation means less interaction between outside air and inside air.  

A main goal has been preventing the loss of cool air in the summer, and the retention of heated air in the winter.  This definitely helps to rein in energy costs and 

The effort to reduce the energy cost of heating and air conditioning has led to some unintended consequences.  Most notably poor indoor air quality.

This is most commonly laid at the feet of the HVAC system, as it fails to adequately distribute air properly throughout the building.

Chemical toxins from inside the building play a role.  Office equipment, adhesives, manufactured wood and other processed materials can emit dangerous toxins.  Outside air that does make it into the building can bring smoke from fires, automobile exhaust, and other outdoor pollutants

Pollutants from improper cleaning, stagnant water, dirty air ducts and insulation also contribute.

Many workers who complain of mysterious ailments realize their symptoms disappear when they leave the building.  This mysterious behaviour led to the coining of the term sick building syndrome.


One remedy for existing buildings is the installation of one or more green walls or vertical gardens.

Bringing in a bit of the outdoors to an otherwise sterile office environment dramatically enhances a building.  It makes it feel more inviting and appealing.

Green walls can reduce the amount of toxins in the air by as much as 87%.  At the same time, vertical gardens metabolize the toxins and release oxygen at a much higher rate than potted plants.  They act as a natural air purifier, making your working environment more desirable.

Green walls also impact energy costs.  They help lower the surface temperature of walls in the summer, resulting in lower air conditioning costs.  In the winter, they provide extra insulation to help retain heat, and thus reduce heating costs.

You can substitute artificial plants, for less maintenance, and achieve an aesthetic change in the look of your space.

There are steps an individual can take to lessen the effects of SBS.  

These include keeping your personal workspace clean and free of dust and dirt.  Use an air filter or dehumidifier if you have a personal workspace or office.

Take your lunch breaks outside the building. Open your windows, to allow air and sunlight in.  

Use an outdoor space for meetings.  Many buildings have patios or other open areas that can be utilized for meetings, or even short breaks between tasks.

Building standards are changing, in recognition that tighter standards have resulted in negative consequences for the workers in those buildings.