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Building Health Sciences - Healthy buildings, healthy people, healthy business

Another Unlikely Source of a Nuisance Odor


A building owner was faced with a nagging problem of a localized odor on one floor of a high-rise office building housing a major, long term tenant who occupied the entire facility. After a thorough, but unproductive, investigation by facilities personnel, the odor persisted. Tenant complaints became more persistent; the landlord was accused of failing to maintain the building within the occupancy parameters of the lease. Continued occupancy by this preferred tenant was threatened.


Building Health Sciences was assigned to determine the source of the nuisance odor, which was described as present only at specific times during the work day, and characterize any health hazards. With our understanding of building dynamics, we were able to investigate and eliminate from consideration all potential contributing factors, which covered the spectrum from tenant-related to construction materials, sewer gas leakage and configuration of all piping systems, chilled water/sanitary/storm, within the area of concern. Through on-site observation, employee daily logs, attendance records, work hours and interviews, it was determined that the source was actually associated with the daily arrival of a single employee and her path from the elevator lobby to her workstation. No health hazard was present. Our physician was able to re-assure our client and meet with the tenant's Human Relations representative to explain the investigation and its findings.

Lesson Learned

The landlord's sensitivity to tenant satisfaction, insight into the value of securing qualified and independent assistance, and relationship-based sharing of this information with the tenant resulted in successful resolution of a delicate personnel issue and a challenging tenant.