A model to estimate the cost effectiveness of indoor environment improvements in office work
Deteriorated indoor climate is commonly related to increases in sick building syndrome symptoms, respiratory illnesses, sick leave, reduced comfort and losses in productivity. The cost of deteriorated indoor climate for the society is high. Some calculations show that the cost is higher than the heating energy costs of the same buildings. Also building-level calculations have shown that many measures taken to improve indoor air quality and climate are cost-effective when the potential monetary savings resulting from an improved indoor climate are included as benefits gained. As an initial step towards systemizing these building level calculations we have developed a conceptual model to estimate the cost-effectiveness of various measures. The model shows the links between the improvements in the indoor environment and the following potential financial benefits: reduced medical care cost, reduced sick leave, better performance of work, lower turn over of employees, and lower cost of building maintenance due to fewer complaints about indoor air quality and climate. The pathways to these potential benefits from changes in building technology and practices go via several human responses to the indoor environment such as infectious diseases, allergies and asthma, sick building syndrome symptoms, perceived air quality, and thermal environment. The model also includes the annual cost of investments, operation costs, and cost savings of improved indoor climate. The conceptual model illustrates how various factors are linked to each other. SBS symptoms are probably the most commonly assessed health responses in IEQ studies and have been linked to several characteristics of buildings and IEQ. While the available evidence indicates that SBS symptoms can affect these outcomes and suggests that such a linkage exists, at present we can not quantify the relationships sufficiently for cost-benefit modeling. New research and analyses of existing data to quantify the financial importance of SBS symptoms would enable more widespread consideration of the effects of IEQ in cost benefit calculations.