Blog Article

The hidden costs of poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ)

Poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ) can not only cause immediate health problems to a building’s occupants’, but it can also incur hidden long-term costs, which can be bad for individuals, businesses and society. For businesses in particular, the health costs in terms of medical bills, sick days, and lost productivity can be significant.

By now, most people will be aware that poor IEQ can have a serious impact on your health. The quality of air, light, temperature and sound inside a building can have a direct impact on its occupants. When these factors are neglected, it can lead to increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a decrease in productivity. It can also cause an increase in headaches, dizziness, and eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation.

In addition, poor indoor air quality can cause an increase in airborne contaminants, dust mites, mold, and bacteria, which can lead to an increase in allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Surprisingly, poor air quality can even damage furniture, fabrics and other materials, leading to costly repairs and replacements.

Ultimately, the hidden costs of poor IEQ can take a toll on your health, your wallet, and your peace of mind. It is, therefore, important to recognize the potential hidden costs of poor indoor environmental quality and take steps to improve the environmental quality of our living and working spaces.

How the quality of air, noise and light inside a building affects people

Poor IEQ can cause health problems and complaints, such as sick building syndrome (SBS) and building-related illnesses (BRI). IEQ factors such as air pollution, noise pollution, and inadequate lighting can have a negative effect on human health. Improper ventilation can increase the likelihood of mold and other contaminants developing in buildings.

Also, mold growth can result in headaches, asthma attacks, nausea, and other symptoms. Noise pollution can be caused by improperly functioning heating or air-conditioning systems, street noise, or conversations of others.

Additionally, indoor air quality can be damaged by pollutants from outside the building such as tobacco smoke or carbon dioxide. Moisture control is vital for regulating the amount of water and water vapor inside a building. Therefore, it is vital to maintain IEQ in buildings to ensure occupants’ health.

Impact on human health

The impact of poor IEQ on human health is far-reaching and often underestimated. In the northern hemisphere, more than 90% of the population spends most of the day indoors, and the air quality within these indoor spaces can, understandably, have a significant impact on our health.

Poor indoor air quality, in particular, can cause a host of health problems, including respiratory diseases, allergies, asthma, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.

Financial costs of poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ) on businesses

In addition to the direct health impacts, poor indoor air quality can also lead to significant economic costs. For example, decreased productivity due to the health effects of poor air quality can result in lost wages for employees and decreased output for businesses.

As such, it can have serious financial consequences for businesses and the wider economy. Not only can it lead to higher energy costs due to inefficient systems, but it can also impact employee productivity and health, leading to a loss of potential profits.

Poor IEQ can also result in a decrease in customer satisfaction and retention, resulting in less business revenue. In other words, poor IEQ can have a cascading effect on a business’s financial health.

Unfortunately, many business owners are unaware of the hidden costs of poor IEQ, leading to costly mistakes that could have been avoided. Implementing good IEQ practices can boost the financial performance of a business by improving the efficiency of its systems, increasing employee productivity, and improving customer satisfaction and retention.

Poor IEQ’s impact on productivity and performance

Poor indoor air quality can have a significant impact on employee productivity and performance. Poor air quality can lead to a range of health problems, such as increased headaches, eye and throat irritation, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.

In the short term, these physical symptoms can lead to reduced focus and productivity, and in the long term, can lead to more severe illnesses. Additionally, poor indoor air quality can result in higher rates of absenteeism, which can also lead to reduced performance and productivity.

In addition to these more direct impacts, there can also be hidden costs associated with inadequate indoor air quality. For example, employers may need to invest in additional HVAC systems or air purification equipment to improve air quality. The presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in indoor air can also impact the performance of electronic and electrical equipment, leading to costly repairs or replacements. Moreover, the presence of mould, mildew, and other biological contaminants can damage building materials and furnishings, resulting in costly repairs and replacements.

Furthermore, they may experience higher energy costs due to inefficient ventilation and air filtration systems. Ultimately, these hidden costs can add up, resulting in significant economic losses for the employer and reduced performance and productivity for the employees.

Solutions - healthy buildings

Healthy buildings can provide positive physical, psychological, and social supports to people's health and wellbeing. They can be achieved by monitoring and the latest labour and energy saving technologies – aimed specifically at creating a good IEQ in balance with building energy usage and sustainability.

Healthy buildings must meet certain environmental quality standards that promote environmental health and well-being. The WELL Building Standard and Fitwel Certification System are two methods used to assess indoor environmental quality, as is the newly formed British Standard (BS40102), which we played a significant role in designing. These systems quantify air quality, noise levels, temperature and light quality in a building and measure their impact on human health.

If you want to find out more about how to monitor the IEQ of your building, or consult with us regarding how to design-in good IEQ from the start of your project or retrofit an existing building, please get in touch at

Date: 8 August 2023