Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to describe a variety of health problems associated with “sick” buildings – buildings that contain high levels of air contaminants. In some countries, SBS is called Tight Building Syndrome or Closed Building Syndrome. These more descriptive terms are the key to understanding why ventilating timber windows and doors are the cure for SBS.

A syndrome is not a specific disease, but rather a group of symptoms that all share a common cause. Some of the symptoms of SBS include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Low level nausea
  • Itchy eyes
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Throat irritation or dryness

Sick Building Syndrome was identified in the 1970s after office workers repeatedly complained about having these and other symptoms while at work. Researchers discovered that the cause of the syndrome was the office environment itself. Many of the building products in modern offices are manufactured using a variety of chemicals that emit toxic fumes for years after they are manufactured. Because the office buildings were sealed environments, the air quality was so poor it was causing sickness.

SBS is not confined to the office. The same chemicals used in office building materials can be found in the home. They are present in many paints, flooring materials, carpets, treated timbers, and even many common cleaning products. Technically called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), they can be easily identified when you open a fresh can of paint or varnish and smell a strong odour. When the paint or varnish dries, the odour vanishes. VOCs continue to be emitted, though, but in much smaller volumes.

Researchers did sophisticated tests to determine safe and unsafe levels of VOCs in office environments. The first thing they discovered was that many offices were more polluted than the outdoor environments of the world’s most polluted cities. One cure for SBS was to replace all the flooring materials and office furniture in polluted offices. An easier cure was to improve ventilation. When sealed windows were replaced with windows that could open and small office doors replaced with wide pivot doors, office workers immediately reported drastic reductions in the symptoms of SBS.

Recent Building Code of Australia (BCA) changes revolve around making homes more energy efficient. One of the recommended changes is to improve ventilation. The legislation is not retroactive, though, and many Australian homes in the past were designed to be virtually hermetically sealed to improve heating and air conditioning performance. Because they were also built with modern building products, they became both unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly.

The cheapest and easiest way to make a “sick” house healthy again is to improve the quality of the air with ventilating windows and doors. An earlier blog, The Best Timber Windows for Ventilation gives a lot of tips for improving ventilation with timber hopper windows and other timber windows. Installing timber bifold doors and windows is another way to bring fresh air into the home.

Another great way to improve air quality in the home is with house plants. Plants have the unique property of absorbing CO2 and releasing fresh, clean, healthy air. In many ways, they work like a carbon water filtration system works to filter out water contaminants. As an added bonus, house plants are a welcome addition to any room decor.

If you think your home could be healthier, download a copy of Allkind Joinery’s 2013 Timber Windows and Doors Catalogue and discover how affordable a more beautiful and healthier home can be.

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Please call us toll free on 1800 757 949 with any questions you may have on timber joinery products, our friendly staff are always happy to help with any advice you need.

The post Ventilating Timber Windows and Doors – the Cure for Sick Building Syndrome appeared first on Allkind Joinery & Glass Pty Ltd written by Rob Schneider.

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