Dry air causing eye problems in 1960s office building

A friend of mine works in an open-plan office in a 1960s building that has windows which do not open.
My friend and a lot of the other people in the office have significant eye problems due to the dryness of the air. Ventilation in the office is provided by vents which are beneath the windows, hot or cold air comes out of these vents, depending on the weather etc.
My friend has tried to increase the humidity of the air by buying a humidifier, plants, and even by spreading out wet cloths - it is like trying to light the Albert Hall using a candle. The humidity level on a humidity meter usually reads about 30% and I understand that an acceptable level is more like 50% to 70%.
I don't know whether the ventilation system could be described as air conditioning, but I wonder whether, when it was originally installed, it was designed to provide some level of humidification for the building. If it was, then I wonder whether that humidification facility could be reinstated?
It seems to me that the only way to deal with this problem is to increase the humidity as I have described above, or by "simply" fitting windows that open. The current windows go from thigh-height to the ceiling.
I'd be interested in any comments anyone who has experience of dealing with excessively dry office environments may have. Also, has anyone any knowledge of how the ventilation system in a building like this would work or any thoughts on how to approach this problem from a legal/health and safety point of view as the building's owners seem reluctant to do anything.
Thanks
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Murmansk69 wrote:

I wouldn't actually try and rn aircon with open windows - helluva fight and no one wins.
Just stick loads of pot plants in, and water them daily.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I've just recently seen a sixties built office suite having air intake systems fitted under some of the windows. The building has the same design in the glass walls as you have described, and the air intake systems are simply a hole, the size of a standard boiler flue, through the wall to the outside. The boxes, so I'm told, contain a fan assisted radiator, which in winter time draws cold air from outside and warms it up before blowing it into the room. In summer, the system simply uses the fan and nothing else. The fans aren't that powerful, but are just enough to keep a positive pressure on the air that's drawn in.
Suppose it'll take a bit of time to see what effect this system has, but I know the building used to give everyone headaches and sore eyes if they were in there for any length of time.
Another building I know of, has simple ducts through to the outside. They're fitted behind radiators, so aren't really seen, but the difference they've made is really noticeable. I'm told that when the radiator heats, it draws in air from outside by the natural convection of the air moving around it. I know that system works because we've been visiting that building for many years now and the difference between now and when it didn't have the ducts is huge.
There is also the chance that the building is fully of man-made fibres and is holding huge amounts of static electricity. If this isn't being drawn away, it will cause dust to fly in and stick to desks and chairs etc. This can also cause the same symptoms you're describing. They named it "Sick Building Syndrome" way back when, and some buildings haven't had anything done about it.
We have had buildings where we had to place earth bonded foil sheets underneath carpets and bonded along curtain tracks, just to try and keep the static at bay. So this might also be something to look at. The building might just need a bit more air flow through it, or some more natural fibres in the carpets and chairs, and not anything big and fancy.
--
http://www.basecuritysystems.no-ip.com

Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

This system probably has no effective humidity control, or it is defective. Most tend to have a cooler duct battery that takes moisture out of the air and a heater battery directly after to reheat to room temp. A good controller will modulate the two batteries to achieve a setpoint duct discharge humidity level and setpoint discharge temp. Not too difficult in the UK as the air is mainly damp most of the time.
Further control can be integrated to control spray coils after the batteries to humidify. The spray coils are usually used when it is very hot and the cooler battery only is on taking moisture from the air.
This is for the constant temp/humidity duct. Further local temperature control is usually used.
Find out what the recommended humidity levels are in an office a/c these days. If not within range then they have to get it right.
--
--

Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Version: 6.0.542 / Virus Database: 336 - Release Date: 18/11/2003
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

snip
For some years, I worked in an open plan office environment with a powerful fan-driven air-conditioning system which was nearly always about 10% RH lower than I recorded at home in a 1980s bricks & mortar house (about 1/2 mile away). At work in winter, the RH was frequently around the 30% level*, and as (from memory) below 40% is the danger point when working with static sensitive devices, we installed de-ionisers amd humidifiers in the assembly area. Other areas where most worked weren't "improved", but there were very few health complaints amongst the 200+ of us working there. The air was heavily filtered during its passage through the a/c units, and a minimum of 10-30% fresh air was set. Am just wondering whether your friend & colleagues are suffering from other factors - isocyanates from furniture? * occasionally down to 15% on really cold days. A decent SBS survey would cost a few thousand, and getting a truly independent one isn't easy. Do your site's absence/sickness records show a problem? If so, the management should see a potential benefit in getting the matter fixed. If not, it could be an indicator of other problems, such as stress.
--
M Stewart retired H&S advisor
Milton Keynes, UK
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Malcolm Stewart wrote in message ...

management
could be

I dread to think how many flu type bugs come from so called air conditioning systems where dead birds are decomposing in the presence of warmth and moisture. I can remember static electricity being a major problem in the winter. You'd let someone else open the door to avoid the shock from the metal handles. The fashion for acrylic carpets didn't help. There used to be a firm that supplied humidifiers disguised as plant troughs. They puffed out little jets of steam every few seconds but, with no circulation, they probably weren't that effective. People forgot to fill them anyway.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

conditioning
I have never come across dead birds in supply air ducts. A/C requires a minimum of 10% fresh air by law. A proper modern system will modulate the supply air and re-circ dampers to obtain "free" cooling, when the outside air temp is less than inside. The outside air is mixed with the returning re-circ air to maintain a constant discharge temp of 20-21C. This means that you may be getting near full fresh air in winter times.

You'd
no
--
--

Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Version: 6.0.542 / Virus Database: 336 - Release Date: 18/11/2003
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.