SBS occurs when building factors such as indoor air quality affect its occupant negatively.
Occupants living with such unhealthy spaces show symptoms such as cough, dry throat, eye irritation and skin irritation. In more severe causes, SBS can even result in headaches and dizziness. Even as early as the 1980s, the World Health Organisation has already highlighted that SBS affects up to 30% of newly built office buildings in the Western World.
In a more recent study, Dr Mendell and his colleagues from the Ohio National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimated that nonspecific building-related symptoms, such as SBS, may have had a negative consequence of up to $70 billion on the United States economy. To calculate this estimate, Dr Mendell first identified the number of health cases related to nonspecific building-related symptoms. These reports were explicitly from individuals who work indoors, which ranged between 8 and 30 million cases annually. Next, the research team translated the individual cases into the cost from absence and other performance losses. While this estimate cannot be fully validated, it goes to show that good design, which often is invisible to the eye, can have significant health and economic impact.