Dry air causing eye problems in 1960s office building

Discussion in 'Misc DIY' started by Murmansk69, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. Murmansk69

    Murmansk69 Guest

    A friend of mine works in an open-plan office in a 1960s building that
    has windows which do not open.

    My friend and a lot of the other people in the office have significant
    eye problems due to the dryness of the air. Ventilation in the office
    is provided by vents which are beneath the windows, hot or cold air
    comes out of these vents, depending on the weather etc.

    My friend has tried to increase the humidity of the air by buying a
    humidifier, plants, and even by spreading out wet cloths - it is like
    trying to light the Albert Hall using a candle. The humidity level on
    a humidity meter usually reads about 30% and I understand that an
    acceptable level is more like 50% to 70%.

    I don't know whether the ventilation system could be described as air
    conditioning, but I wonder whether, when it was originally installed,
    it was designed to provide some level of humidification for the
    building. If it was, then I wonder whether that humidification
    facility could be reinstated?

    It seems to me that the only way to deal with this problem is to
    increase the humidity as I have described above, or by "simply"
    fitting windows that open. The current windows go from thigh-height to
    the ceiling.

    I'd be interested in any comments anyone who has experience of dealing
    with excessively dry office environments may have. Also, has anyone
    any knowledge of how the ventilation system in a building like this
    would work or any thoughts on how to approach this problem from a
    legal/health and safety point of view as the building's owners seem
    reluctant to do anything.

    Thanks
    Murmansk69, Nov 19, 2003
    #1
  2. Murmansk69 wrote:

    > A friend of mine works in an open-plan office in a 1960s building that
    > has windows which do not open.
    >
    > My friend and a lot of the other people in the office have significant
    > eye problems due to the dryness of the air. Ventilation in the office
    > is provided by vents which are beneath the windows, hot or cold air
    > comes out of these vents, depending on the weather etc.
    >
    > My friend has tried to increase the humidity of the air by buying a
    > humidifier, plants, and even by spreading out wet cloths - it is like
    > trying to light the Albert Hall using a candle. The humidity level on
    > a humidity meter usually reads about 30% and I understand that an
    > acceptable level is more like 50% to 70%.
    >
    > I don't know whether the ventilation system could be described as air
    > conditioning, but I wonder whether, when it was originally installed,
    > it was designed to provide some level of humidification for the
    > building. If it was, then I wonder whether that humidification
    > facility could be reinstated?
    >
    > It seems to me that the only way to deal with this problem is to
    > increase the humidity as I have described above, or by "simply"
    > fitting windows that open. The current windows go from thigh-height to
    > the ceiling.
    >
    > I'd be interested in any comments anyone who has experience of dealing
    > with excessively dry office environments may have. Also, has anyone
    > any knowledge of how the ventilation system in a building like this
    > would work or any thoughts on how to approach this problem from a
    > legal/health and safety point of view as the building's owners seem
    > reluctant to do anything.
    >



    I wouldn't actually try and rn aircon with open windows - helluva fight
    and no one wins.

    Just stick loads of pot plants in, and water them daily.


    > Thanks
    >
    The Natural Philosopher, Nov 19, 2003
    #2
  3. Murmansk69

    BigWallop Guest

    "Murmansk69" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > A friend of mine works in an open-plan office in a 1960s building that
    > has windows which do not open.
    >
    > My friend and a lot of the other people in the office have significant
    > eye problems due to the dryness of the air. Ventilation in the office
    > is provided by vents which are beneath the windows, hot or cold air
    > comes out of these vents, depending on the weather etc.
    >
    > My friend has tried to increase the humidity of the air by buying a
    > humidifier, plants, and even by spreading out wet cloths - it is like
    > trying to light the Albert Hall using a candle. The humidity level on
    > a humidity meter usually reads about 30% and I understand that an
    > acceptable level is more like 50% to 70%.
    >
    > I don't know whether the ventilation system could be described as air
    > conditioning, but I wonder whether, when it was originally installed,
    > it was designed to provide some level of humidification for the
    > building. If it was, then I wonder whether that humidification
    > facility could be reinstated?
    >
    > It seems to me that the only way to deal with this problem is to
    > increase the humidity as I have described above, or by "simply"
    > fitting windows that open. The current windows go from thigh-height to
    > the ceiling.
    >
    > I'd be interested in any comments anyone who has experience of dealing
    > with excessively dry office environments may have. Also, has anyone
    > any knowledge of how the ventilation system in a building like this
    > would work or any thoughts on how to approach this problem from a
    > legal/health and safety point of view as the building's owners seem
    > reluctant to do anything.
    >
    > Thanks


    I've just recently seen a sixties built office suite having air intake
    systems fitted under some of the windows. The building has the same design
    in the glass walls as you have described, and the air intake systems are
    simply a hole, the size of a standard boiler flue, through the wall to the
    outside. The boxes, so I'm told, contain a fan assisted radiator, which in
    winter time draws cold air from outside and warms it up before blowing it
    into the room. In summer, the system simply uses the fan and nothing else.
    The fans aren't that powerful, but are just enough to keep a positive
    pressure on the air that's drawn in.

    Suppose it'll take a bit of time to see what effect this system has, but I
    know the building used to give everyone headaches and sore eyes if they were
    in there for any length of time.

    Another building I know of, has simple ducts through to the outside.
    They're fitted behind radiators, so aren't really seen, but the difference
    they've made is really noticeable. I'm told that when the radiator heats,
    it draws in air from outside by the natural convection of the air moving
    around it. I know that system works because we've been visiting that
    building for many years now and the difference between now and when it
    didn't have the ducts is huge.

    There is also the chance that the building is fully of man-made fibres and
    is holding huge amounts of static electricity. If this isn't being drawn
    away, it will cause dust to fly in and stick to desks and chairs etc. This
    can also cause the same symptoms you're describing. They named it "Sick
    Building Syndrome" way back when, and some buildings haven't had anything
    done about it.

    We have had buildings where we had to place earth bonded foil sheets
    underneath carpets and bonded along curtain tracks, just to try and keep the
    static at bay. So this might also be something to look at. The building
    might just need a bit more air flow through it, or some more natural fibres
    in the carpets and chairs, and not anything big and fancy.


    ---
    http://www.basecuritysystems.no-ip.com

    Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
    Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
    Version: 6.0.541 / Virus Database: 335 - Release Date: 14/11/03
    BigWallop, Nov 19, 2003
    #3
  4. Murmansk69

    IMM Guest

    "Murmansk69" <> wrote in message
    news:...

    > A friend of mine works in an open-plan office in a 1960s building that
    > has windows which do not open.
    >
    > My friend and a lot of the other people in the office have significant
    > eye problems due to the dryness of the air. Ventilation in the office
    > is provided by vents which are beneath the windows, hot or cold air
    > comes out of these vents, depending on the weather etc.
    >
    > My friend has tried to increase the humidity of the air by buying a
    > humidifier, plants, and even by spreading out wet cloths - it is like
    > trying to light the Albert Hall using a candle. The humidity level on
    > a humidity meter usually reads about 30% and I understand that an
    > acceptable level is more like 50% to 70%.
    >
    > I don't know whether the ventilation system could be described as air
    > conditioning, but I wonder whether, when it was originally installed,
    > it was designed to provide some level of humidification for the
    > building. If it was, then I wonder whether that humidification
    > facility could be reinstated?
    >
    > It seems to me that the only way to deal with this problem is to
    > increase the humidity as I have described above, or by "simply"
    > fitting windows that open. The current windows go from thigh-height to
    > the ceiling.
    >
    > I'd be interested in any comments anyone who has experience of dealing
    > with excessively dry office environments may have. Also, has anyone
    > any knowledge of how the ventilation system in a building like this
    > would work or any thoughts on how to approach this problem from a
    > legal/health and safety point of view as the building's owners seem
    > reluctant to do anything.


    This system probably has no effective humidity control, or it is defective.
    Most tend to have a cooler duct battery that takes moisture out of the air
    and a heater battery directly after to reheat to room temp. A good
    controller will modulate the two batteries to achieve a setpoint duct
    discharge humidity level and setpoint discharge temp. Not too difficult in
    the UK as the air is mainly damp most of the time.

    Further control can be integrated to control spray coils after the batteries
    to humidify. The spray coils are usually used when it is very hot and the
    cooler battery only is on taking moisture from the air.

    This is for the constant temp/humidity duct. Further local temperature
    control is usually used.

    Find out what the recommended humidity levels are in an office a/c these
    days. If not within range then they have to get it right.





    ---
    --

    Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
    Version: 6.0.542 / Virus Database: 336 - Release Date: 18/11/2003
    IMM, Nov 19, 2003
    #4
  5. "Murmansk69" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > A friend of mine works in an open-plan office in a 1960s building that
    > has windows which do not open.
    >
    > My friend and a lot of the other people in the office have significant
    > eye problems due to the dryness of the air. Ventilation in the office
    > is provided by vents which are beneath the windows, hot or cold air
    > comes out of these vents, depending on the weather etc.
    >
    > My friend has tried to increase the humidity of the air by buying a
    > humidifier, plants, and even by spreading out wet cloths - it is like
    > trying to light the Albert Hall using a candle. The humidity level on
    > a humidity meter usually reads about 30% and I understand that an
    > acceptable level is more like 50% to 70%.

    snip

    For some years, I worked in an open plan office environment with a powerful
    fan-driven air-conditioning system which was nearly always about 10% RH lower
    than I recorded at home in a 1980s bricks & mortar house (about 1/2 mile away).
    At work in winter, the RH was frequently around the 30% level*, and as (from
    memory) below 40% is the danger point when working with static sensitive
    devices, we installed de-ionisers amd humidifiers in the assembly area. Other
    areas where most worked weren't "improved", but there were very few health
    complaints amongst the 200+ of us working there. The air was heavily filtered
    during its passage through the a/c units, and a minimum of 10-30% fresh air was
    set. Am just wondering whether your friend & colleagues are suffering from
    other factors - isocyanates from furniture?
    * occasionally down to 15% on really cold days.
    A decent SBS survey would cost a few thousand, and getting a truly independent
    one isn't easy.
    Do your site's absence/sickness records show a problem? If so, the management
    should see a potential benefit in getting the matter fixed. If not, it could be
    an indicator of other problems, such as stress.
    --
    M Stewart retired H&S advisor
    Milton Keynes, UK
    www.megalith.freeserve.co.uk/oddimage.htm
    Malcolm Stewart, Nov 20, 2003
    #5
  6. Murmansk69

    stuart noble Guest

    Malcolm Stewart wrote in message ...
    >Do your site's absence/sickness records show a problem? If so, the

    management
    >should see a potential benefit in getting the matter fixed. If not, it

    could be
    >an indicator of other problems, such as stress.

    I dread to think how many flu type bugs come from so called air conditioning
    systems where dead birds are decomposing in the presence of warmth and
    moisture.
    I can remember static electricity being a major problem in the winter. You'd
    let someone else open the door to avoid the shock from the metal handles.
    The fashion for acrylic carpets didn't help.
    There used to be a firm that supplied humidifiers disguised as plant
    troughs. They puffed out little jets of steam every few seconds but, with no
    circulation, they probably weren't that effective. People forgot to fill
    them anyway.
    stuart noble, Nov 20, 2003
    #6
  7. Murmansk69

    IMM Guest

    "stuart noble" <stuart'> wrote in message
    news:lS1vb.690$...
    >
    > Malcolm Stewart wrote in message ...
    > >Do your site's absence/sickness records show a problem? If so, the

    > management
    > >should see a potential benefit in getting the matter fixed. If not, it

    > could be
    > >an indicator of other problems, such as stress.


    > I dread to think how many flu type bugs come from so called air

    conditioning
    > systems where dead birds are decomposing in the presence of warmth and
    > moisture.


    I have never come across dead birds in supply air ducts. A/C requires a
    minimum of 10% fresh air by law. A proper modern system will modulate the
    supply air and re-circ dampers to obtain "free" cooling, when the outside
    air temp is less than inside. The outside air is mixed with the returning
    re-circ air to maintain a constant discharge temp of 20-21C. This means
    that you may be getting near full fresh air in winter times.

    > I can remember static electricity being a major problem in the winter.

    You'd
    > let someone else open the door to avoid the shock from the metal handles.
    > The fashion for acrylic carpets didn't help.
    > There used to be a firm that supplied humidifiers disguised as plant
    > troughs. They puffed out little jets of steam every few seconds but, with

    no
    > circulation, they probably weren't that effective. People forgot to fill
    > them anyway.




    ---
    --

    Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
    Version: 6.0.542 / Virus Database: 336 - Release Date: 18/11/2003
    IMM, Nov 20, 2003
    #7

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