Student Research: Kevin O'Barr

, , 1994
Faculty Advisor: Michael S Morgan

Comparison of Office Ventilation Rates to Employee Symptom Prevalence


The sick building syndrome refers to a group of symptoms attributed to poor indoor air quality, although a specific causal agent is rarely identified. It has been hypothesized that increasing the outdoor air supply will reduce symptom prevalence.

This study evaluated three office buildings with ventilation rates of 22 to 110 cfm per person characterizing their HVAC performance and taking multiple measurements of CO2, temperature, and relative humidity as indicators of system performance. Self-administered questionnaires were distributed to all occupants of the buildings. Of the 514 eligible employees, 298 (58%) participated in the study.

The demogrpahics of the buildings did not differ significantly except for gender. Women reported more symptoms than men overall. Women differed between building in their symptom prevalence while men did not. The prevalence was not correlated with the outside air flow rate. Volumes of outdoor supply air beyond currently recommended levels are not associated with lower symptom prevalence.