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SICK BUILDING

A Sick Building is a building that contains conditions that have the potential to cause ill health to humans that occupy or use the building.

Sick Building should not be confused with "Sick Building Syndrome", Sick Building Syndrome commonly refers to air quality within a building, it  relates to contaminated air and/or air with high levels of Carbon Dioxide due to lack of fresh replacement air to the air circulated by contaminated air conditioning units for example,  it also relates to the likes of mould and bacteria that are suspended in the air potentially creating  respiratory problems for some human occupants.



I seek to make a clear difference between a Sick Building and Buildings with "Sick Building Syndrome". I recognise the importance of good air quality within buildings and the risk of poor air quality to the health of the buildings occupants, where I differ in my approach is that I seek to find the source of those conditions within a building or to surrounds of a building that provide favorable conditions for the likes of mould & fungal growth to develop and multiply together with other factors, such as humidity or moisture within the building that over time becomes toxic due to lack of movement (stale), similar to still water that is left to stand for prolonged periods can become toxic and is not fit for humans to drink.

I reluctantly offer to provide a Sick Building assessment but will not do this free of charge, this is an evaluation of the buildings interior, exterior, sub-floor, roof void and attached structures as a whole unit , it is important to evaluate all areas of a building as each area will interact due to variations in temperatures, high pressure zones, low pressure zones, equilibrium moisture content, humidity, ventilation, mode of construction, design factors and the buildings fabric.

My experience indicates that all these factors interact and where an imbalance in nature occurs then conditions arise that promote mould growth, unidentified bacteria, fungal growth, spider webbing, stale air, still moisture, deterioration of building elements, termite damage, wood decay and/or any other contributors to natural decay. The undesirable effects of any imbalance to the environment within buildings can provide for conditions that may prove over time to effect  the health of the human occupants, where conditions that are undesirable can be identified,  preferably as a problem is developing then appropriate actions  or alterations can be undertaken to minimise the risks related to undesirable conditions to buildings.

The use of thermal imaging technology on a daily basis has given me an understanding of micro environments that exist  within buildings, how humidity commonly occurs, which areas are prone to condensation given the layout of the building, vapour movement including vapour fronts and vapour transfers as per the Darcy's effect, this added knowledge has given me an opportunity to better understand where conditions are favorable to mould growth, many other conditions that relate to fungal growth, general pest activity, structural pest activity are also related to the likes of humidity and condensation. It is with this broader understanding that I can assess a building in relation to it's potential to be a Sick Building, identifying building faults that may provide conditions that will cause sickness to human occupants or users.

I am not a mycologist nor have I undertaken courses currently available to identify mould as is the case with many that currently provide inspections of buildings identifying the presence of mould, that said I do culture mould and/or other fungi in petri dishes so that I can and make a general identification by comparison to identification charts and Key guides, similar to the identification methods I use when identifying plant or tree species as a qualified arborist, at this point I do not find it essential for me to identify specific mould species or specific fungi species for the simple reason that I am of the opinion that the environment of buildings ideally should not have conditions for any mould growth, be it toxic or non toxic, or other fungi growth, my intention is to identify those areas in buildings prone to mould, fungal growth or other potential health hazards and make necessary alterations, that will minimise the conditions that provide for, in the case of fungi, growth to occur, in short, I am intent on identifying a Sick Building, providing education to those who occupy or use the building, by identifying the source or sources of the problems we can then seek appropriate remedies.

I am an experienced builder, building consultant, pest controller with expertise in termites, qualified arborist and I have for many years owned and operated a subsidiary of my current business, Sub-Floor Solutions, that specialised in altering the environment under buildings by physically altering the soil composition under buildings preventing non wood decay fungi over ground surfaces from being able to reproduce, in the mid 1990's I realised through experimentation and plenty of trial & error, that I could remove an essential element from the three essentials that the non wood decay fungi needs to survive and multiply, based on my success within the sub-floor areas of the buildings together with the improved knowledge I have from constant day to day use of thermal imaging, moisture meters and a range of other testing equipment, I have developed a unique understanding that really can only be obtained from the experience of inspecting, treating, altering and repairing buildings on a day to day basis for the last 18 years, I have inspected many thousands of buildings in Sydney since I established my current business in 1992.

Over many years I have had a fascination with water, the fact that we have very little understanding of the wonders of water has prompted me to learn, trial through experimentation and seek to expand my knowledge in relation to water, be it water in vapour form or as a liquid or as a solid, I am certain that I will be fascinated for many years to come and what I have learnt to date is likely to only be the tip of the iceberg of what I may learn in future through experience and feedback that I always appreciate.

One of the wonders of nature is that  in general terms, nature constructs as much as it destructs and destructs as much as it constructs, this is a clear indicator that nature is really about balance, once an imbalance occurs then things are not so good, until such time as the balance can once again be achieved. Maybe this is an important lesson for us all, we should really go through life trying to maintain a good balance in every aspect of life, once something is out of balance then the consequences are not so good, it is not easy to maintain a good balance and often a lot of effort is needed to achieve an appropriate balance.

Once we understand that balance is often difficult to maintain, a question arises. Has nature made it a bit difficult to maintain balance so that those that are lazy or those that do not necessarily care will become weakened or disadvantaged compared to those that put in the effort to maintain an appropriate balance? The question may be answered with a range of theories, as an example, A building occupant that does not clean  the dishes and throw away the rubbish is theoretically more likely to get sick from food poisoning than a buildings occupant that cleans the dishes and removes rubbish in a prompt manner.

Applying the above theory it would appear that people that put in the effort to have a well maintained property are theoretically more likely to have less deterioration to the property or well maintained components will likely have extended durability.  A quick experiment can readily be undertaken to prove this point, by a small length of timber from the hardware store, cut it in half, leave half out in the rain and sunshine, the other half put it inside in a protected space, after two weeks compare the two timber sections, the one left outside will be weathered and warped whilst the other will be virtually the same as the day you purchased it from the hardware store.

Buildings need a lot of ongoing maintenance, some call it, lots of loving care, a building also needs to breathe, my experience indicates that where a building is well maintained and the multiple voids of a building are allowed to breathe for prolonged periods, the building will more than likely be healthy, no pest damaged, no significant deterioration however once a building is closed up with minimal maintenance and no ventilation it will potentially deteriorate rapidly and is prone to being a Sick Building.

This page is still under construction and partially incomplete, I shall endeavour to take time in the coming weeks to continue editing this page.

This web page has led to many persons calling me, seeking free advice and being very unappreciative when I am reluctant to offer free quotes or free advice, this has led me to be reluctant to engage with persons regarding these matters, I know that I can possibly provide assistance but the fact that my efforts are not appreciated, I am reluctant to continue, I will concentrate on providing general pest control services and Pre Purchase Inspections.


To order an Inspection please print a Pre Inspection Agreement form and fax it to our office or, preferably, fill in the electronic form & submit online.

I would love to hear from you. Call Steve

Telephone: - 0418 274 099
 
Postal address
63 Tivoli Esplanade, COMO 2226
 
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Office of Fair Trading (NSW)- Building Inspections - A Home Buyer's Guide    PDF Reader

Office of Fair Trading NSW - Home Building Service - Includes Licence Check

Institute of Building Consultants

AEPMA - A Code Of Practice - For Prior To Purchase Timber Pest Inspections - Stephen Koelewyn - participant Drafting Committee

AEPMA - Australian Pest Managers Association I am no longer a member of this Association

Stephen Koelewyn - NSW Builders Licence 45109c - Building Consultant Licence BC213 (Now Obsolete in NSW) - Pest Control Licence 2025
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Last modified: 1 July, 2017

AUSINSPECT is well equipped to carry out specialised building works, termite treatments, termite nest location, termite nest eradication, effective repairs to buildings and property maintenance. We own our own machinery and truck for efficient, cost effective undertaking of works, our specialty is the repair of termite damaged and decayed structures.

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