The effects of outdoor air supply rate in an office on perceived air quality, sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity

Indoor Air. 2000 Dec;10(4):222-36. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0668.2000.010004222.x.


Perceived air quality, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity were studied in a normally furnished office space (108 m3) ventilated with an outdoor airflow of 3, 10 or 30 L/s per person, corresponding to an air change rate of 0.6, 2 or 6 h-1. The temperature of 22 degrees C, the relative humidity of 40% and all other environmental parameters remained unchanged. Five groups of six female subjects were each exposed to the three ventilation rates, one group and one ventilation rate at a time. Each exposure lasted 4.6 h and took place in the afternoon. Subjects were unaware of the intervention and remained thermally neutral by adjusting their clothing. They assessed perceived air quality and SBS symptoms at intervals, and performed simulated normal office work. Increasing ventilation decreased the percentage of subjects dissatisfied with the air quality (P < 0.002) and the intensity of odour (P < 0.02), and increased the perceived freshness of air (P < 0.05). It also decreased the sensation of dryness of mouth and throat (P < 0.0006), eased difficulty in thinking clearly (P < 0.001) and made subjects feel generally better (P < 0.0001). The performance of four simulated office tasks improved monotonically with increasing ventilation rates, and the effect reached formal significance in the case of text-typing (P < 0.03). For each two-fold increase in ventilation rate, performance improved on average by 1.7%. This study shows the benefits for health, comfort and productivity of ventilation at rates well above the minimum levels prescribed in existing standards and guidelines. It confirms the results of a previous study in the same office when the indoor air quality was improved by decreasing the pollution load while the ventilation remained unchanged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Perception
  • Sick Building Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Sick Building Syndrome / etiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Workplace