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

White Coats and Hard Hats - Health


Comprehensive Integrated Capabilities: Uniquely BHS

Essential to an efficient and successful response is a multi-professional incident response team which integrates medical and construction expertise with building science knowledge: "white coats and hard hats." The combined health and technical expertise of our team, inspires confidence and credibility, thereby gaining the trust, respect and support of all concerned while mitigating the risk and cost of incident escalation. This approach overcomes the shortcomings of qualified building professionals limited to the resolution of building problems only.

What is a physician's role in an integrated building-related investigation?

The response strategy to an environmental incident frequently requires a physician-led investigation in order to insure that the situation is resolved to the occupant's satisfaction. Only a physician can ask certain health-related questions of the occupant in order to assist in the forensic investigation and mitigation of their health concerns or fears – real or perceived, related to the incident.

What is the first response to occupant complaints attributed to building conditions?

All too frequently, complaints of work-related illness and of indoor environmental and air quality issues are investigated only from the perspective of the building, office or residence; the focus is on environmental discomfort conditions, inadequate construction, building enclosure failures and systems' performance. With increasing attention to wet damp spaces, the focus has shifted to examining how building dynamics may be negatively affecting its occupants and identifying any contributing building deficiency.

Occupant symptoms attributed to building conditions present a unique challenge.

Occupant health and associated concerns actually drive an environmental incident investigation. Occupants' perception of their health forms the foundation of their fears and productivity, measured in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism – defined as the employee is actually at work but working below capacity. Business interruption, decreased morale, and even the extreme situation of vacating the premises as seen through requests for permission to work remotely, may be the result of worker-perceived building-induced illness. For the building owner, such stigma damages can lead to significant financial impairment. A health-based approach to occupant / building complaint investigations with building science expertise in tandem, rather than a building-based approach with no physician component, is essential.

When do occupants label a building as "problematic"?

Occupants label the building as "problematic" when they have complaints, or symptoms, which are subjectively attributed to the building. This is usually the first indication of a problem. In other words, health concerns arise first and become the incident driver. Yet, the usual response is to perform air sampling, testing and visual examination of the building. Typically, health is ignored. This fact led to BHS' creation of a "white coats and hard hats" approach.

Is medical expertise a key component of your incident response plan? If not, why not?

From the physician's perspective, a great deal of the usual response is unfocused at best, unnecessary at worst, but costly in either case. With early medical oversight, every step of the investigation can be focused on the true underlying driver of the incident: occupant concerns, fear or health.

Additionally, many situations are not easily diagnosed by simply looking at the building and interpreting sampling and testing results. Therefore, having a physician who is able to speak with the symptomatic occupant(s) and develop a working hypothesis about the possible causes of the complaint(s), permits formulation of a directed investigation.

What does the White Coat offer?

Absent the presence of a physician, incident resolution may be incomplete. Our physician's expertise, communication skills, credibility and believability are an integral part of the BHS incident response team. Not only does our physician ensure the health and safety of the building occupants, but our multi-professional approach also eliminates costly, misdirected testing, evaluations, lost time and unnecessary remediation.

Building Science + Heath Science = Building Health Sciences

Click here to view case studies which illustrate our unique approach