Estimates of Improved Productivity and Health from Better Indoor Environments
The existing literature contains strong evidence that characteristics of buildings and indoor environments significantly influence rates of respiratory disease, allergy and asthma symptoms, sick building symptoms, 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 of $6 billion to $19 billion from reduced respiratory disease; $1 billion to $4 billion from reduced allergies and asthma, $10 billion to $20 billion from reduced sick building syndrome symptoms, and $12 billion to $125 billion from direct improvements in worker performance that are unrelated to health. Sample calculations indicate that the potential financial benefits of improving indoor environments exceed costs by a factor of 18 to 47. The policy implications of the findings are discussed and include a recommendation for additional research.