Estimates of Potential Nationwide Productivity and Health Benefits From Better Indoor Environments: An Update
The existing literature offers relatively strong evidence that characteristics of buildings and indoor environments significantly influence prevalences of respiratory disease, allergy and asthma symptoms, symptoms of sick building syndrome, and worker performance. Theoretical considerations, and limited empirical data, suggest that existing technologies and procedures can improve indoor environments in a manner that significantly increases health and productivity. At present, we can develop only crude estimates of the magnitude of productivity gains that may be obtained by providing better indoor environments; however, the projected gains are very large. For the U.S., we estimate potential annual savings and productivity gains in 1996 dollars of $6 to $14 billion from reduced respiratory disease; $2 to $4 billion from reduced allergies and asthma, $15 to $40 billion from reduced symptoms of sick building syndrome, and $20 to $200 billion from direct improvements in worker performance that are unrelated to health. In two example calculations, the potential financial benefits of improving indoor environments exceed costs by factors of 9 and 14. Further research is recommended to develop more precise and compelling benefit-cost data that are needed to motivate changes in building codes, designs and operation and maintenance policies.