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Benefits of Controlling humidity levels within the workplaceAugust 2017

Blanca Beato Senior Research Engineer

BSRIA says it is well documented that humidity plays an important role in assuring the wellbeing of building occupants. In the U.K. we spend over 80 per cent of our time indoors and with approximately 90 per cent of the associated costs of a building being staff related (1), providing good indoor environmental quality is essential.

The recommended levels of humidity vary depending on the application (offices, data centres, hospitals). In some industrial applications (heritage, storage), moisture stability is essential for preservation. In offices, the generally accepted levels of humidity may range between 40 and 60 per cent (2).

As a standalone parameter, humidity is unlikely to cause thermal discomfort and levels outside the 40-60 per cent range can easily be tolerated. A 10 per cent increase in relative humidity is felt to be as warm as a 0.3°C rise in the operative temperature (3). Human perception of dry air is generally due to contaminated or too warm air rather than physical dryness (4) and air with high humidity is often perceived as odorous (5).

Blanca Beato-Arribas, Asset Performance Team Leader, BSRIA, said:

“Humidity extremes are undesirable and affect human comfort, productivity and health. Long periods of exposure to humidity levels under 35 per cent should be avoided as they can cause eye irritation, throat and nose dryness (6). This is a common occurrence in aircraft, where humidity levels can be as low as 20 per cent (7). Low humidity levels can also increase static electricity, which is a bigger cause of concern in data centres, where equipment can be damaged (8) or in places where there might be risk of gases igniting (1).

At the other end of the spectrum, high levels of humidity encourage bacteriological and mould growth (2, 6) and increase the chemical and sensory emission from water borne building varnish and paint (9), contributing to poor indoor air quality.

In summary, controlling the humidity levels and regular maintenance of the systems in an office building will avoid future costly problems related to mould growth and also contribute to the wellbeing and productivity of the occupants.”

For more information on humidity - please contact Blanca on 01344 465 676;


  1. Wellbeing and productivity in Offices report. World Green Building Council’s Health, 2014.
  2. Guide A Environmental design. Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, 2015.
  3. BS EN ISO 7730: 2005 Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Analytical determination and interpretation of thermal comfort using calculation of the PMV and PPD indices and local thermal comfort criteria. BSI, 2006.
  4. Sundell, J, On the association between building ventilation characteristics some indoor environmental exposures, some allergic manifestations and subjective symptom reports. Indoor Air. Supplement no2/94 pp 5-49,1994.
  5. Fang L, Clausen G and Fanger P O, Impact of temperature and humidity on the perception of indoor air. Indoor Air vol 8, no 2, pp 80-90, 1998.
  6. Potter, I N, The sick building syndrome. BSRIA Technical Note 4/88, 1988.
  7. World Health Organisation
  8. Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments. ASHRAE, 2015.
  9. Fang L, Clausen G and Fanger P O, Impact of temperature and humidity on chemical and sensory emissions from building materials. Indoor Air, vol 9, no 3, 193-201, 1999.


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