Indoor air quality is a growing concern. Mold and mildew, fostered by moisture accumulation, can lead to respiratory discomfort and aggravate allergies and other respiratory conditions. Moisture-related problems in the home are not always visible. Sick building syndrome is used to describe situations in which the occupants of a building experience acute health effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building. Mold has been suggested as one of the possible factors.
What conditions create mold in buildings?
Mold typically reproduces by means of airborne spores. These spores are always present in the air. The spores need only the right conditions to take hold:
- Certain temperature range
- Grows better in a dark environment (i.e., behind walls or in HVAC ducts)
Buildings can provide an almost ideal environment to support the growth of mold. The typical temperature in buildings is optimal, there are dark places and organic substances for mold to feed on. Just add water and you’ve created a perfect mold breeding ground.
Why is mold harmful?
There are two primary reasons it is harmful:
- Mold can feed on and destroy most of the organic materials found in buildings, such as wood, paper, carpet, and glue.
- Mold can cause harmful health effects.
How are mold problems detected?
The first step in any investigation for the presence of mold in buildings is to follow the water:
- Any damp or wet areas?
- Look for evidence of high humidity, condensation, or visual evidence of water staining.
- Check for other clues such as musty odors or reported physical symptoms in occupants.
Our experienced engineers can help identify the underlying root cause of mold issues. This is often a complex process involving extensive detective work.
What to do if you have a mold problem.
You must first address the water problem. The source of the moisture must be identified and the condition rectified. Only then can the process of remediation begin. Remediation consists of either cleaning the affected materials in place or the removal and replacement of these materials. Small areas can be remediated by maintenance staff, larger areas by trained contractors.
The EPA has an informative web page for commercial building owners and managers.
Criterium Engineers was asked to investigate a mold problem in a relatively new commercial office building that was undergoing extensive renovation. The contractor encountered wet and moldy insulation and gypsum board during demolition. We determined that the cause of the mold problem was water intrusion. The head flashing over the windows had been installed upside down so that water was channeled into the wall cavity rather than away from it. Excess mortar in the wall cavity prevented air from circulating within the cavity and drying it out. It also formed a path for water to travel from the inside of the brick veneer to the surface of the gypsum board. Because of blocked weep holes there was no path for water to drain away from the wall cavity. The cost to remediate was estimated at nearly $180,000! This underscores why investigating mold issues immediately is so important.