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Do your employees take frequent sick days or complain often that they don’t feel well at work? Sick building syndrome — or more technically, building related illness (BRI) —could be why. Once scoffed at, this phenomenon has become widespread enough that most medical and building performance experts now acknowledge it as real. The consequences in terms of lost productivity and worker health are very real indeed.


Sick building syndrome is a term used to describe uncomfortable symptoms that appear to result from time spent in a particular building. These symptoms may be associated with a part of the building, or the entire structure. No specific illness is diagnosed, and no specific cause can be determined. (This is because as soon as a cause is identified, it gets labeled as something else, such as Legionnaires’ disease or mold.)

Since building related illness occurs more frequently in newer or renovated buildings, it is thought to be related to modern building materials and/or techniques. These include paints, composites and plastics that can off-gas chemicals into the interior environment; and construction techniques designed to limit air flow in order to prevent heat loss or gain.


Symptoms of building related illness can include one or more of the following:

  • Respiratory distress (sneezing, coughs, congestion, asthma, etc.)
  • Eye and/or skin irritation, itchiness or rashes
  • Chest pains and/or cardiac arrhythmia
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal distress, such as bloating, gas or diarrhea
  • Muscle stiffness, aches and pains
  • Nausea
  • Problems with concentration, mood, memory or other mental disturbance

Symptoms may vary widely from one individual to the next. However, they typically decrease or disappear with time spent away from the building.


Sick building syndrome prevention includes the following measures:

  • Improving ventilation. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, poor indoor air quality is the primary culprit in sick building syndrome. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has determined that over half of all poor air quality cases can be traced to poor ventilation.
  • Eliminating sources of contaminants or smog in indoor air. This includes fumes from inside or outside sources, as well as toxic building materials.
  • Sanitary measures to remove microbial infestations.Mold remediation, pollen infiltration and fungal, bacterial or viral contamination of HVAC systems can all contribute to building related illness.

The infographic on this page provides an at-a-glance outline of sick building syndrome — including its causes and tips for preventing building related illness. If you would like to learn more about how Go Fan Yourself’s® high-volume, low-speed fans can help prevent sick building syndrome, contact us here.