Letter: Alienated by sick buildings

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a designer of air- conditioned buildings, I am fed up with friends asking me to work out why their particular office air- conditioning system is not working properly.

Jonathan Glancey's article ("Does your office make you sick?", 4 April) rightly points out that sick building syndrome is a phenomenon that managers and institutions have been slow to recognise. Many air-conditioned buildings designed in the Sixties and Seventies suffer from problems associated with centralised control which alienates the building occupant.

However, things are changing. There is a recognition in the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) profession that the building occupant must be given both a greater variety of working spaces and much greater control over that environment. So it is that many well-designed modern buildings now feature large atrium spaces, light wells and winter gardens.

Technology is now being used to give back control to the occupant. Currently this means more room thermostats and systems in which the occupant can dim the lights.

In the future, intelligent facades will be developed that will modify their performance to suit the prevailing weather conditions, possibly letting in more light in winter whilst redirecting the light in summer.

In Britain we do build most of our offices on a speculative basis. However, there is a growing move towards the pre-letting of developments whilst they are still in the design stage.


Ove Arup and Partners

London W1