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Is your building sick?

The quality of the indoor air in commercial buildings and just what should be done about it has become a pressing concern for owners, tenants and, now legislators. In response REW gathered a number of industry members that are at the forefront of the issue.

Therese Fitzgerald for REW: Beginning on my right, why don't you introduce yourself and describe how you have been involved in this issue.

Eugene Sullivan: I'm an attorney in New Jersey. We have offices in New York as well. For a number of years I was assistant attorney general in the State of New Jersey, so i was one of the regulators who dealt with these kinds of issues, among others.

C. Jaye Berger: I'm the author of a book on hazardous substances in buildings, and I'm very involved in the construction industry, representing all sides, so we come across this issue quite often.

Ken Patton: I'm in my own business, PMC Realty in New York, and I'm the chairman of the Research Committee for the National Realty Committee and past chairman of the Environmental Committee of the National Realty Committee, and was active in all aspects of environmental regulation, including indoor air quality.

Carl Borsari: I'm with Newmark & Co. I've been chairman of various environmental committees for both BOMA [Building Owners and Managers Association] and the Real Estate Board. I am currently the chairman of the Joint Task Force on Environmental Concerns for the Real Estate Board and BOMA. I also am the chairman of the Asbestos Committee for the Real Estate Board.

Joseph Driscoll: I'm the director of BOMA, Long Island. I'm also an attorney. I'm also an ex-government official from Nassau County who has dealt with these problems in the past - more in the political sense than the owner sense. I'm here representing our president, Gary Rodolitz, who is the president of BOMA Long Island.

Michael De Chiara: I'm an attorney. I'm also chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. My firm specializes in construction law, all aspects of it, and this is certainly one of the things that we've developed a bit of an expertise in.

Fitzgerald: Let's review the problem. What are the things that are negatively. impacting a building's environment? What types of buildings are we talking about? What types of ailments or discomforts are people experiencing?

Patton: I'd like to say that we don't know. The history of the environmental legislation has been that we sort of legislate before we understand the science. I'm not denying that there's a problem of some sort, but in the asbestos case, we had the Health Effects Institute study, part one of which was issued this year, which substantially changed the ground rules of asbestos, which is about 12 years after the legislation was passed. During that period of time, the school systems of America probably spent $6 billion or $10 billion removing asbestos unnecessarily, in many cases, that could have been spent on teachers or counseling or whatever. Until we truly understand I'm saying we shouldn't err on the side of caution and be protective of the environment.

We should know whether pumping more air into a building is going to make it worse for people with allergies, who are allergic to ragweed, and better for people who are allergic to ink, or whether it's the contents that are making people feel bad or whether it's the ... maybe it's the management. I mean, most problems thus far, that I know of, in indoor air quality have occurred in government buildings and affect government employees. New York State's buildings, the Environmental Protection Administration building in Washington ... the government employees in New Hampshire seem to have more of this problem than people who work for the private sector. Maybe it's because those buildings are less well managed. I don't know.

Berger: I think for definitional purposes, with Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). We're really talking about a very broad range of physical symptoms that people may have who usually work in a particular space. We're talking about usually office buildings, commercial spaces, government space, things like that. It could be situations where people complain of anything from eye irritation to dizziness, headaches, and maybe more severe conditions. That's what makes it such a difficult problem, because it encompasses such a broad range of physical symptoms. If someone says "Every day I come to work and I feel headachy," is it your boss that's giving you the headache or is there something wrong in the building?

Usually they talk in terms of if at least 20 percent of the people in the building are complaining about the problem, that's a pretty good indicator there is a problem. But on a more practical level, what we usually find is there may be one or two people who are aggrieved about a particular situation and it will lead to litigation.

Borsari: I think one of the analogies I like to make, I spent a number of years in the Air Force as an industrial hygiene engineer, dealing with primarily an industrial environment. In that type of environment, almost getting back to what Ken was saying, you had specific exposures. In other words, if you were working in the paint shop and you were working with lead paint, you knew pretty much that that was a definite exposure and there were certain threshold limits that you were allowed to have based on working eight hours a day, 40 hours a week for X number of years.

De Chiara: How did you know that?

Borsari: Through testing.

De Chiara: People who were sick? Borsari: There was a lot of data from the scientific area and the medical area, in which they were able to develop prototypes of people -- monkeys and mice and so on and so forth. If a person was exposed to that type of environment day in and day out, they'd have liver damage and brain damage. But yet you still had to work in this environment. So the question was how to limit their exposure, either by ventilation, by respirators, by limiting the amount of time that they could work in that environment. This held true with the flight line in terms of noise, and we'd have people work in certain areas of jet testing for only limited times. They'd have to wear ear muffs.

Along with that, there was a medical follow-up. In other words, you took a baseline study of people and you were able to determine before they started or just about the time they started in this work environment that their hearing capacity was so much, that their lead levels were so much, etc. Then you monitored them on a yearly basis. So it was very specific, in a sense easier, to evaluate the exposure. But when you go into an office environment with the variety of exposures, there might be something like 10,000 various chemicals, noise, lighting, temperature, humidity and how they synergize with each other. In other words, you might have a very low level of this chemical, but when you mix it with this chemical, now you have a hazard.

I agree that certain buildings have probably certain problems, especially when a large percentage of the building population complains. The building management has to respond to that because obviously there's a problem. But I think because of the publicity which occurred with asbestos and now with Sick Building Syndrome - it's been on TV, it's been in the newspapers, right away people use that term not in the proper way, and it creates panic in a building in terms of the tenancy of the building.

Somehow I think, back to what Ken's saying, we have to learn more about the exposures, the chemicals. We don't know anything about it except we have these baselines and all which we can't do in a building, if you have to take blood tests and everything else on people. We don't know what the effects are. Bursari: Exactly right.

Patton: One of the prevailing fallacies in environmental regulation is to equate an office worker or a custodian in a school who cleans floors with a shipyard worker or an asbestos miner. What happened after 12 years, we got back to the fag that you had to deal with the occupational hazard of people who work with asbestos and separate it from the problem of people who are just in a building that happen to have it around, properly managed, sealed, and the rest of it.

De Chiara: I think part of your question, Therese, is what could some of the effects be. For purposes of discussion, I think if we talk about the more egregious cases where, in fact, you have a building with a problem, that, I think, should be more of the focus of where we go today. We can talk about whatever the group wants to talk about, but if we're going to talk about whether we need legislation, does this problem really exist, that's an interesting political debate. I don't know if that's what you have in mind.

I'd be perfectly willing to address that issue, but it might be more fruitful to assume you have a building and there's something going on. We don't know what it is. How, as a society, do we responsible address this? I think what's clear from this discussion is you have building owners who want to do the right thing. What is the right thing? Is the right thing legislation which is going to be onerous to comply with and which, in fact, might not be needed? That doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Beiger: I think one of the big difficulties, though, is there isn't one thing that constitutes Sick Building Syndrome. It's such a combination of symptoms and factors, because you could be talking about anything from problems with your HV-AC system to excess tobacco smoke, things like that.

De Chiara: Sure, but the bottom line is, if there is a problem, if there's an identifiable problem -- and I'd like to hear from the owners -- I think we'll find that they're willing to address the problem, if you can show us we've got a building with a problem. But don't just create something, some amorphous...

Patton: There's one axiom. This is self-serving from the real estate industry, but it's an area in which the industry agrees with environmentslists completely, and I think logic supplies the underpinning, that the source reduction is the first line of defense against all environmental problems. We run into opposition from the chemical industry and various manufacturers when we say that, but we agree that buildings should be healthy. No one .can disagree it's much easier to have a health building when you reduce the sources of pollution within it and you understand them. You can't just say, "This should be an empty building." You've got to work in it. But what is in a building that might contribute to whatever this problem is? And there are things that are being done.

There may be lease clauses that we could use to keep stuff out of buildings. It's a fruitful area of discussion before you start legislating on the HVAC end of the business.

Borsari: You're talking housekeeping, that sort of thing.

Patton: I'm talking about what kind of rugs, how furniture is made, coatings. Our buildings became printing plants. They used to send it out and get printed, and now 90 percent of printing is in the building.

De Chiara: Let me ask you something. Before the energy crunch, when people were pumping a lot more fresh air into buildings, and you were running your HVAC equipment at a higher rate, do you people recall -- this is directed to the building owners -- do you recall if you were having similar kinds of complaints, the kind of stuff you're starting to hear about now?

Patton: I used to be with Helmsley Spear. We operate 10s of hundreds of millions of square feet. When we had this issue before the City Council, we testified that we had no complaints-zero. And the City of New York said they had zero. You operate how many buildings, Carl?

Borsari: Twenty-three million square feet.

Patton: How many complaints?

Borsari: Somebody asked me that recently, and I would say over the past four or five years, when this became an issue, and this includes 35 million square feet that I was involved in, maybe one or two cases. When we investigated, it was very specific. In other words, it was either we had a building where the intake was right near the truck dock area for the fresh air, and right away we ascertained that that was the cause. We've gotten these nebulous things where someone maybe had a headache, some minor discomfort, and we made a survey.

It's hard to say what do you survey. What do you look for? As Ken said, first you look to eliminate the sources, whether it be furnishings, fuel, where your intakes are located, etc. And do you have enough fresh air? There may be microorganisms in terms of your cooling towards, etc.

After you go through that and there's still a problem, that's where it gets to be very difficult.

Lois Weiss for REW: It's also a level of awareness because I can remember going for a job downtown at American Can in that building in the late 70's. Walking into the building, I felt a wall of smoke hit me. I walked out in the middle of the job interview and I said,"I can't work in this building. It reeks of cigarette smoke, and I don't want to be in it." And people thought at that time I was nuts. And it's a matter of more people becoming sensitive to the smells and odors. I don't know if that's us growing up now with it and saying "I'm getting sick from this or that" or if our planet is truly having more odors in it because of these new chemicals that are in the rugs. We used to work with all wool or cotton, and now you're dealing with these foreign substances that are being imported into buildings. It's no longer bricks and mortar and wood, but plastics.

Borsari: I think all the comments to this moment have been primarily around operation--how the building is operated. I think a good, sound operator, building owner, manager is going to ensure whatever type of quality environment they can, if for no other reason than enlightened self-interest. You don't need an unhappy tenant.

Patton: So let's remember when you talk about these regulations and things, Carl or I may end up in court with a tenant or in a negotiation with a tenant who's trying to break the lease. When you're talking about odors and smoke and paints and stuff, you're talking about things that the building owner has nothing to do with. I guess you could put a whole long list of prohibitive substances that looks like the international arrival building in Kennedy Airport, and say, "If you want to be in my building, you can't have any of this stuff in it." Our buildings are so full, we could probably take that kind of position. But the fact is that the tenant is largely responsible, and most regulations --almost all regulations, whether the landlord has anything to do with it whatsoever, end up making him strictly liable. It's the deepest pocket.

De Chiara: They run everything else.

Patton: The problem is, when you take areas where the landlords, the tenants, the environmentalists, all agree, and in 100 percent of the cases we produce results that are not what we intended or wanted them to be, even when we all agree, you've got to look at how we legislate and regulate.

De Chiara: But I think you'd agree that if there are things that can be identified, that an owner can influence, such as the number of air chambers in a building at a given period, such as the kind of equipment that you have, such as including certain filters, I think ---owners would be willing to invest in those changes to have a healthier building if it could be shown that these changes would actually make the buildings safer and healthier.

Patton: Yes and no. First, I agree it would have to be shown. That's where the science comes in. You have to show that that works. The second thing is, the owner has to be able to. In a market where there is no credit, where in many buildings the efficiency of the air-conditioning, HVAC systems, will be diminished by yet another environmental law which relates to CFCs, ... which could marginalize thousands of buildings throughout America, and if you then make that building pump more air through it, you've taken an already bankrupt industry ... and put it six feet under water.

De Chiara: I don't think anybody wants to bury the real estate industry. If you are presented with facts that say, "If you don't make these changes, people will get sick," and if you don't make those changes, regardless of how I feel personally, you will expose yourself and other owners to liability.

Patton: We don't know how to finance it, though. People have got to realize there is no credit. You can't get credit for work letters. We're not playing with a healthy body here; we're playing with an industry that's in triage. You've got to be very sure that you're putting a law onto this industry that in terms of relative risk, in terms of priorities, in terms of economic efficiency for the country as a whole, that it's useful to do it. You can't make 1 million buildings comply with a law to satisfy a problem that concerns 20 people or 200 people or 2,000 people, half of whom may be ambiguous indeterminate cases.

One thing we do know: if we push our industry under water, we take the banks with us. Take the banks with us, we take the economy with us.

Berger: But whether you handle this issue through legislation or not, I think it's clear that operations and maintenance is the biggest factor at play here, because you can put in all the right systems, but if they're not maintained properly, you're going to have problems. The workmen who actually run the building have to be educated and trained in a way so that they know how to run things in a way that is safe.

Patton: I wasn't addressing that issue. When we talk about putting more air in buildings, the consequences of more air in buildings is unaffordable conversion of buildings -- unfinanceable conversion of buildings -- and increasing the number of buildings that are marginal because they're already being stricken by the ozone layer regulations.

Weiss: I think you're talking about air in the building on what is available and not adding capacity.

Patton: No, no. Increasing.

Driscoll: Not from my standpoint.

De Chiara: The premise from where I was starting was that if you can show that if you don't take that action people will get sick, we're not talking about a situation where you have a building like the World Trade Tower, 25,000 people in each building and three or four people are complaining or even 100 people are complaining, and you're not exactly sure why they're complaining. We're talking about a situation where it can be demonstrated scientifically, within some reasonable parameter, that you need to make a change in the building, otherwise people will get sick. Under those circumstances, I don't think the industry, the owners, can say, "We understand people are getting sick, but we can't afford to make the changes, so we won't." I think that's a pretty clear circumstance, and we're sort of arguing it at an extreme here, but under those circumstances, I think the industry has to be willing to make changes. I don't think we're at that point yet. I don't think we have that case, but I think we can start there and then work back into the gray area. The gray area, I agree with you, there's a lot of room for debate in terms of what action should be taken.

Sullivan: It may be that owners of major buildings need to just plain survey their buildings, because you may have a problem and you may not know it. You may have a lot of complaints; you may not. But in either case, you may have an underlying problem. In today's legal environment, I don't think ignorance could be evinced if complaints were made down the road.

Borsart: Especially in the New York area, you have such a variety of buildings -- as you say, major buildings. Even this legislation, they talk about that the ownership of a state legislation that Tully's introducing, that the owner shall designate someone to be the operators and maintenance coordinator ... plus maybe have a chief engineer and staff and so on and so forth. Small buildings have what we call a super, don't even have a super. I mean, they have somebody on a rotating basis, and it's not even that sophisticated to be able to fully address those issues. By the way, the older buildings in New York have operable windows. etc.

But I guess if you took readings of their air-handling systems as they converted to package units and air conditioning, maybe it doesn't meet the criteria. I think it's kind of difficult sometimes to come up with these universal-type approaches.

Patton: A certification requirement for a building? You'll need additional legislation, as we did in Local 5, the fire code law, to exempt from liability the people that you have asked to take that burden.

Borsart: That's true. Right.

Patton: It will enter into our negotiations with the unions. There will have to be protocols established there. A thing that just seems so simple and logical, you will then give rise to opportunities for tenants who want to get out of leases, to at least assail the lease and attempt to get out of it.

As I said before, asbestos is by national policy not a cause to not take space in a building, and hopefully not to lend money on a building, but there are major tenants who will not go in buildings .... because it has asbestos in it, even though EPA says you could.

There's another train coming down the road to hit us? It's called lead paint. Most people think I'm talking about lead-based paint, talking about apartment buildings and landlord tenants, and poor kids in impoverished areas. You will not be able to sell your house unless you get it out of there, even though the law says you don't have to get it out of there. The National Association of Realtors says you have to disclose what's in your building. The lender is going to say, "Wait a minute. I'm not going to lend if it has it in it." It's going to cost the average homeowner $8,000 to $15,000 to comply with a law that was meant to keep kids in the Bronx from chewing window sills.

Sullivan: The same problem exists with radon.

Patton: Radon. One of the helpful things -- I hate to be macabre about this is that when things only hit us, we lose. When things hit homeowners and other people, there's a tendency for the process of regulations to slow down. But even a thing as benign as having a certified person on the site of the building to look into the thing, it will end up with consultants having to be hired, they'll have to be certified, and there will have to be inspections.

Driscoll: As I understand the Tully's bill, there will be a requirement that a professional engineer be retained to draw up an operation and maintenance [11an for the building, which should conform to the equipment on board, on site. From that point on, there will be a certain reporting requirement that the equipment is operating as it's supposed to, that it's being maintained as it's supposed to be. I would suggest that probably the owners of most major buildings are doing that today in a very informal sense.

Weiss: But the Tully bill goes down to 25,000 square feet.

Driscoll: That's correct.

Weiss: Where is a square footage that somebody could afford to hire a PE [professional engineer] and do that?

Driscoll: How much would it cost to draw up the original plan, the initial plan, for 25,000-foot space?

Patton: The City of New York will charge a $400 fee.

Borsart: To begin with, it will be fee-generated.

I think the other thing that Ken brought up is that we come up with these isolated environmental issues ... I mean, very specific, if you want to call it, like asbestos. We're talking about indoor air quality and we think about lead and paint. That's another air quality issue. Radon is another indoor air quality issue. Asbestos, smoking, etc. But also all these other flaws. like CFCs, where we want to maintain the same piece of equipment. Let's say the equipment is 10 years old, but we have to change the refrigerant. We're going to lose 10 percent efficiency on that piece of equipment, and in addition to that, let's say you :had to bring in more fresh .air that you have to now condition, you'll be unable to do it.

The other thing is the energy code, especially in New York State, now and for a long time, from an energy conservation standpoint, has concentrated on lighting. If you notice, even Con Edison's rebate programs, it's really directed to lighting because of quick paybacks, etc. But now the. energy code is starting to enforce it in terms of air conditioning, heating, so on and so forth, and the requirement is to get more energy efficient. Again, when you're talking about buildings, what are we doing? We're heating and cooling outside air. That's where you consume a lot of your energy.

Somehow someone has got to look at the entire building environment. There's got to be like a czar in the government who looks at all these issues - energy, CFCs, indoor air quality, lead paint - and see how the whole thing impacts on a building and the people.

We are concerned. We in the industry, locally we formed an indoor air committee. Actually we started this based on the proposed legislation on a federal level, the Kennedy bill and the Mitchell bill, about three or four years ago. We said, "Let's be proactive. Let's not be passive like the asbestos issue."

The committee started as the Indoor Air Quality Task Force. As we got into all these other environmental issues, we changed it to the Indoor Environmental Concerns Task Force - concerns being that every day there's another concern. On this committee we have a focus on indoor air quality, but we have another group on hazardous materials in buildings, the storage of materials, the exposure of workers to various materials in a building, cleaning materials, insulation, formaldehydes, gasoline, PCBs. I mean, just a myriad. We have a committee on electromagnetic radiation and its impact. I mean, it goes on and on and on.

Sullivan: I think what's happening is we're in the middle of a balancing process. As part of that, you're starting to see the proliferation of private lawsuits, and at the same time you're seeing there's a lot of pressure now for public legislation to address what is perceived as a growing problem.

You raise two points that I'd like to address. One, as individuals, our society is not agrarian anymore; we're almost a national urban society. Ninety percent of the population in this country spends over 80 percent of its time, its waking time, in office buildings. That's our environment. That's where we breathe, that's where we drink, and so concerns like indoor air quality and a subtopic of that, Sick Building Syndrome, are going to proliferate. They're not going to go away.

I think as an industry, the owners have to get together and develop some sort of a concerted effort in addressing those problems. To the extent that you can, and gain control, sort of take the high ground, and if you do so responsibly, you're going to be able to more economically address those concerns in the future. If you allow the legislators to just go in and take over that area, you're going to be at their mercy. That's the battle that's going on here now.

Patton: It's also like a speed limit without a speedometer. What you just listed, all the areas you're proactive in -- PCBs, volatile substances, gasoline, electromagnetics, lead paint -- in none of those areas, except asbestos, which has gotten pretty good, is there an agreed-upon method of measurement that's reliable, and an agreed-upon standard of the threshold of risk.

In lead paint, the apparatus for measuring lead content paint can be off by 1,000 percent, because their gadgets do it. You can send it to a laboratory in Cambridge and have a mass spectrometer spectrographic analysis, but it's based on mass or volume. So laws are coming down the road. They say speed limits are kind of coming at us, and there's no speedometers.

Weiss: What would you tell the legislators? They're sitting up in Albany with these bills, and Washington.

Driscoll: It's not a question about that. The one question I have for you, Ken, is what do you find onerous about having your equipment in your buildings being operated professionally and properly, and having a plan for appropriate maintenance?

Patton: Because every time we've had that, we've had all of the things that I've said - certification of people, paid consultants who have to be independent and certified. Lot me try to take the Local Law 5 statistics in New York when I was president of the Real Estate Board. There's 1,000 buildings out of 6,000 office buildings that are subject to Local Law 5, so there's 5,000 buildings, including the one we're sitting in, that have local air-conditioners, window units in some spaces, non-window units in other spaces. There's no system. In this building, I would guess there's 1,000 systems. I'm sure that the law, unless it got to be 50 pages long, or the regulations got maybe 500 pages long, could not address every one of those situations.

Patton: Washington has been, I think, chastened by the asbestos experience, and their indoor air quality regulations are research oriented.

Berger: But they don't have much bite to them.

Patton: But they've got money behind them. They put $50 million out there to figure out what's hurtful and what's not. Don't make everything hurtful by guilty until proven innocent. Figure it out. New York State, for some reason, has got to be precocious and be first on the list with the law.

Driscoll: I think the situation ... again, I'm speaking of the drafts I've seen, it indicates that the building should be operated the way it was originally configured, the way it was originally constructed. That would mean in a building like this, accommodation would be made.

Patton: This building was designed to have the windows that open and close.

Driscoll: Fine. There's no problem. I don't find a problem with that in the legislation. In essence--digressing just a moment, but I think it's indicative of the situation -- some people in Toledo, Ohio, had a building with a day-care center in it, and suddenly everybody was falling over sick. Turns out the basic problem was a maintenance man had shut the damper and there was absolutely no outside air coming into that building. So it was like 150 kids taking a bath in the same water every day, with no water change. People were getting sick. It was a simple, simple operational problem -- operation and maintenance.

Certainly I agree, self-policing in industry is far better, and I think the real estate industry has done marvelous things in terms of self-policing, but in terms of indoor air quality, number one, the predicate is if there's going to be a bill, then I think a bill that deals with existing conditions and requires maintenance of existing conditions is the best bill we could possibly have.

De Chiara: The problem is how to police it. The problem is that when government gets involved and you mandate action, you're creating an operating task on the building owners.

Driscoll: Well, I'm not so sure. They're going to operate anyhow.

De Chiara: You're mandating that various building owners take certain actions. I think that that kind of legislation makes sense where you can demonstrate that the industry has not been responsive to identifiable problems. Ken has pointed out, and I agree with what he's saying, list what the problems are. I would go one step further. I would say, "Show us that the industry has not been responsive and legislation is required."

Driscoll: Just as a follow-up on that. From a liability aspect, if a building owner has a plan, a program of maintenance of his equipment for the building, documenting what takes place periodically at appropriate maintenance levels, wouldn't he be easier to defend in an indoor air quality suit than a building owner who has nothing?

De Chiara: Yes. Clearly the answer to that is yes, but before you get to that.

Patton: Would it be easier to defend if there were a law that required him to do it, as opposed to a period when there wasn't one?

De Chiara: It would clearly be easier to bring a case if it was an objective standard that an owner had to meet and you can show that he didn't meet that standard. However, I think before you get to that point, in this kind of legal analysis, there's something called causation, and this plaintiff has to come in and they have to prove that whatever ailment they claim to have has, in fact, been caused by that building. I think that's a very, very difficult thing to do, and I think that's why you don't see a proliferation of these "sick building" cases. That being the case, I don't see why government should be creating a standard now when there's no basis for that standard.

Driscoll: There's no standard. I interpret what you're saying as to a standard as to the standard of the air that we're breathing in the building. There's nothing in this legislation, the Tully bill, that deals with the condition of the air at all. It merely says the equipment should be operating and maintained as it was designed.

Sullivan: In "sick building" cases, the proof of causation would be very difficult and will probably prevent most suits from being brought. Certainly if the symptoms are limited to headaches, a few missed days of work, that's not enough to justify a feasible lawsuit or enough to encourage a lawyer to do it on contingency. So probably you're going to need a lot of plaintiffs for one of these suits to proceed. But there still is the possibility that somebody who works someplace for 20 years has cancer, and they're going to find some expert who will say it's because of the building they work in. Those of you who have experience in litigation know that if you find one expert who says the cause theory, and you can get one on the other side, you are in for the duration of the lawsuit.

Fitzgerald: We're going to have to wrap up. In conclusion, are there any type of tips we can offer owners and managers?

De Chiara: I would advise building owners that Sick Building Syndrome is not a major problem currently, due to problems of causation, not likely to become a major problem in the future, except in the most egregious cases, and in those cases, building owners should take appropriate action to remedy an obvious and egregious problem. Other than that, I would not be too concerned about Sick Building Syndrome.

Berger: I would agree with that, and I would just add to it, though, that the prudent building owner will be thinking ahead and maybe have an operations and maintenance plan of his own put into effect, just so that he's established a baseline of where his building is at, and that he's made attempts to make sure that the building is safe. So that if a problem comes about in the future, he's covered.

Sullivan: I agree with that, and I think they should also review their lease provisions generally, develop some kind of a policy, take some kind of position on these issues we've raised to deal with it.

Patton: I would say that there's a strong possibility even the most benign legislation will have 50 percent of the properties in New York -- commercial, retail, hospitals, and the rest of it -- in violation of it, and I think you should check every single aspect of the law, the cases, landlord/tenant, withholding of rent, rent impairing violations, and things we know from residential, but find out every possible pitfall that even the simplest legislation could have, because that's almost certain to happen, based on the record of environmental laws.

Weiss: The residential should also be aware of that. One of the laws applies to residential.

Patton: If it doesn't now, it will later. Every co-op in New York will be unfinanceable.

Borsari: I think, just to reiterate what I said before, the industry should be self-policing by an awareness problem, both in terms of seminars, bulletins, etc., make their membership aware of the proper maintenance of their buildings, etc., and respond quickly to tenant complaints... I think. that's really the way we should approach it as building owners.
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Title Annotation:Mid-Year Review & Forecast, Section II; evaluation and advice on sick building syndrome from panel of real estate professionals
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 23, 1993
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