In the 1990s, it seemed that everyone was talking about sick building syndrome (SBS) — it was on the news, in the paper, and, of course, in trade magazines. Speculation was rife over what was causing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue in certain building occupants. After it came to light that inadequate ventilation was one of the primary causes of SBS, the HVAC industry started looking for solutions.
ASHRAE responded by creating Standard 62.1, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality,” and the industry started taking a closer look at other possible causes of SBS, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), proliferation of biological agents due to roofing or plumbing leaks and standing water in drain pans and ducts, radon, and air intakes placed near loading docks or parking garages. The industry worked hard to provide solutions for these — and other — issues, and after a few years, SBS gradually faded from the headlines. But SBS is far from being eradicated; indeed, it is still a concern that many HVAC professionals grapple with every day.