Breathe Easy With Earth Bricks

Breathe Easy With Earth Bricks

Breathe Easy With Earth Bricks

Your Complete DIY Guide to Beating Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

Table of Contents:

  • What is Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)?
  • Most common Symptoms of SBS
  • What are the Initial Signs of SBS?
  • What are the Causes and Triggers of SBS?
  • Short-Term Solutions to Combat SBS
  • Long-Term Solutions and Prevention of SBS
  • How Earth Bricks Can Change Your Life
  • How to Get Started with Earth Bricks

Picture this:  It’s Sunday afternoon, you’ve just finished cleaning, and you’re lounging in your living room.  Floor’s mopped, the furniture’s dusted, everything’s organized, and it’s time to relax.

Except you can’t.

Over the past weeks you’ve noticed a persistent feeling of fatigue, a headache that seems to have become permanent, a nagging cough that has overstayed its welcome. Ever since you moved into this new place a couple months ago, something just isn’t right.

If this sounds at all familiar, you might be experiencing what us architects call Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). A bit dramatic sounding? Maybe. A real issue? Absolutely.

SBS, a term as insidious as it sounds, refers to a series of symptoms that inconspicuously sneak up on you, courtesy of the very building you inhabit. Symptoms range from eye irritation, headaches, and fatigue, to more severe allergic reactions.

But before you start self-diagnosing off a WebMD page, let’s talk about what it really is and how, just maybe, the answer to this modern conundrum lies in one of humanity’s oldest building materials – earth bricks.

In this guide, we’ll unravel the mysteries of SBS, its causes, how to spot it, and, most importantly, how to beat this invisible battle.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Typically affecting office workers, it’s a condition mostly marked by headaches and respiratory problems, attributed to unhealthy or stressful factors in the working environment, like poor ventilation or fluorescent lighting.

Basically, if you’re in an office that’s sealed tighter than a Tupperware lid, with air that’s more recycled than internet memes, you’ve got a recipe for SBS.

Most common Symptoms of SBS include:

  • Headaches
  • Eye, nose, or throat irritation
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Sensitivity to odours


But here’s the thing – these symptoms often subside once you leave the building. So, if you feel better after stepping out for lunch than you do at your desk, it might not just be the joy of escaping your cubicle.

In our modern rat race, we’ve created architectural wonders, but in doing so, we’ve often ignored the fact that buildings need to breathe, just like us. Traditional materials, like compressed earth blocks (CEB), allowed for this natural air flow, but modern materials can trap pollutants and moisture, turning our spaces into invisible swamps of discomfort.

What are the Initial Signs of Sick Building Syndrome?

Meet Alex:  Alex, a graphic designer, starts a job at a sleek new startup, complete with an office that looks like it belongs in a magazine. Glass walls, ergonomic chairs, and not a single paper out of place.

But early on Alex senses that something is off.

It begins with the occasional headache, a dryness in the eyes that no amount of eye drops seems to cure, and a lethargy that slows him down like ankle weights.

Alex initially blames it on the usual suspects – poor sleep, maybe that third cup of coffee. But what seems strange to him is that these symptoms magically desist over the weekends, only to reappear come Monday.

As the days roll into weeks, the office air begins feeling stagnant, the once-appealing sterility now stifling. Scrolling through reels one-night Alex sees a post about Sick Building Syndrome, and a light bulb goes off.

Alex starts chatting with coworkers, and surprise, surprise, they’ve been feeling the same way too. It’s not just a case of Sunday Scaries – it’s gotta be SBS. They start to question the environment they’re working in. Sure, it looks like a photo from a Pinterest board, but at what cost to their health?

What are the Causes and Triggers of Sick Building Syndrome?

How to Identify SBS in Your Home or Office

Curious and concerned, Alex begins to actively search for signs of SBS.

The first suspect? Air quality: Modern buildings, with their airtight designs, are excellent at trapping heat and cutting energy costs, but they’re equally good at hoarding pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints and furniture.

Next on the list is poor ventilation: Turns out, the office’s state-of-the-art climate control system is more focused on temperature than air quality. Sure, it’s a pleasant 23°C year-round, but it’s recycling air through the vents, leading to increased CO2 levels and decreased oxygen.

Lighting is another suspect: The harsh, artificial lights illuminating Alex’s workspace contribute to eye strain and headaches, making those 8-hour workdays feel even longer. While energy-efficient, they lack the balance of natural light.  Fluorescent flickers and the stark brightness are more than just annoyances; they’re health hazards in disguise.

But It’s not just about what’s in the office; it’s also about what the office is made of.

The chic furniture, the pretty paint on the walls, the cozy carpet underfoot, even the insulation – all could be silently off-gassing VOCs and chemicals that degrade indoor air quality over time.

The battle against SBS isn’t just about changing habits or buying air purifiers; it’s about rethinking the materials we surround ourselves with. Modern construction often prioritizes cost and efficiency over health and sustainability.

The revelation hits Alex like a ton of bricks – or rather, a ton of earth bricks.

Maybe the answer lies in rethinking the very bones of our buildings; embracing more natural, breathable materials – like the earth bricks used by sustainable architects from TERRAVERSA.

Short-Term Solutions to Combat Sick Building Syndrome

Alex's Immediate Actions

Realizing that a complete office overhaul wasn’t going to happen overnight, Alex began to look for short-term solutions to combat the effects of Sick Building Syndrome.

Improving Air Quality: The first step was tackling the stale air. Alex advocated for more greenery around the office. Plants, nature’s air purifiers, were brought in to help filter out toxins and pump out oxygen. They didn’t just make the air feel fresher; they made the office look livelier.

Letting the Light In: To reduce the stress of artificial lighting, Alex encouraged the use of natural light wherever possible. Blinds were opened, workstations were rearranged to be closer to windows, and on particularly sunny days, some meetings were even held outdoors. It was amazing how a bit of sunshine could lift everyone’s spirits.

Personal Health Measures: Alex also brought in a personal humidifier to combat the dryness, and encouraged coworkers to stay hydrated and take regular breaks to walk around, reducing the physical and mental fatigue associated with SBS.

Mindful Material Choices: In conversations with management, Alex emphasized the importance of choosing low-VOC paints and furnishings in the future. It was a small step, but a crucial one in the journey towards a healthier workspace.

But Alex was tired of only slowing the symptoms; he wanted to get rid of them for good. His thoughts kept circling back to the sustainable promise of TERRAVERSA’s Compressed Earth Blocks. What if the office could not only look good but also feel good, naturally?

Long-Term Solutions and Prevention of Sick Building Syndrome

Embracing Earth Bricks

Finally ready to go beyond the band-aids and heal the wound at its source, Alex began extensively researching solutions.  After several hours of googling, Alex decided to consult with some local sustainable architects who outlined the following benefits of compressed earth blocks (CEB’s):

Building with Breathability: Buildings need to ‘breathe.’ Compressed earth blocks allow for natural air regulation; better air quality, less SBS.

Thermal and Sound Insulation: CEB’s density not only provides excellent thermal insulation, but it also offers superior sound insulation. This means quieter, more serene work environments.

Sustainability and Local Economy Support: Made by local workers with local materials, CEB’s are sustainable AND fuel community development; a true testament to eco-friendly practices.

Healthier Workspaces: The natural materials used in CEB’s significantly reduce the presence of VOCs and other harmful chemicals.

Environmentally Friendly: CEB’s minimize carbon footprint in a world grappling with climate change and ecological degradation.

Presented with overwhelming evidence, Alex became an earth brick convert.

How Earth Bricks Changed Alex's Life

As he shared his findings about Compressed Earth Blocks and their remarkable benefits, a wave of enthusiasm swept through the office where workers were growing weary of chronic headaches and fatigue.

It was as if Alex had opened a window to a world where office spaces didn’t just look good on Instagram, but felt good to be in, too.

Management’s Buy-In: Convincing the management wasn’t easy, but armed with solid facts about the benefits of CEB’s, Alex made a compelling case: the idea of an energy efficient, sustainable workspace that enhanced employee well-being was too attractive to ignore.

The Renovation Project: The decision was made to renovate a section of the office as a pilot project, incorporating CEB’s. The excitement was palpable as the old walls were replaced with earth bricks.

Experiencing the Difference: The air felt fresher, the ambiance warmer, and the acoustics softer. Employees reported feeling more energized and less fatigued. The headaches and irritations that were once commonplace began to fade, much like a bad memory.

Spreading the Word: Encouraged by the project’s success, Alex shared their experience with other industry professionals; the prospect that simple changes in building materials could significantly impact health was inspiring.

A Ripple Effect: Other companies began considering similar renovations and suddenly TERRAVERSA’s CEB’s were no longer just a building material, but a movement towards healthier, more responsible construction practices; a story of empowerment, of how one individual’s quest for a solution to Sick Building Syndrome led to a paradigm shift in their office and beyond.

How to Get Started with Earth Bricks

Consult with TERRAVERSA: The first step is to reach out to sustainable architects like TERRAVERSA. Our expertise doesn’t just lie in manufacturing CEB’s; we also offer comprehensive consulting services. Whether it’s for a personal home project or a large-scale office renovation, we help your vision come to life.

Attend Training Programs: TERRAVERSA’s Sustainable Construction Institute offers training programs for anyone interested in sustainable construction and how to effectively implement CEB’s in their projects.

Designing with Compressed Earth Blocks: When planning a building or renovation project with CEB’s, it’s important to consider how earth bricks can be integrated into your design. TERRAVERSA’s consulting branch, Construye Diferente, can help create beautiful and health-focused architectural designs.


Alex’s story really shows how a small change can make a big difference. Picking TERRAVERSA’s earth bricks isn’t just about building stuff, it’s about choosing a way of life that’s good for us and the planet.

It’s pretty cool to think that by going with something as simple as these bricks, we’re helping to build a healthier future. Just goes to show, sometimes it’s the little choices that end up making the biggest impact.

Written by: Santiago Maspons (January 24th 2024)

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