Building Dampness and Microbial Growth
Building dampness has been a topic of research for some time now. Many different areas have been explored such as what causes building dampness, the influence of damp conditions on indoor biological contaminants, and how building dampness affects human health. Of course, there are preventative and remediation measures that can be taken depending on the conditions or issue. Let’s take a closer look at building dampness.
Building dampness is generally defined as the conditions within a building being damp enough to sustain the growth of mold or cause material damage. There are variety of sources that can contribute to building dampness. Everything from water intrusion to insufficient dehumidification can be the culprit. One tell-tale sign is condensation on cold surfaces such as windows and walls.
Indoor Air Quality Impacts
Dampness in a building can permeate nearly everything within the indoor environment. If materials and furnishings are damp for a long enough period, mold and bacteria can often begin to grow on them. Other areas that can be a host to microbial colonies can be the HVAC and duct systems. Molds and bacteria produce microscopic airborne particles. These particles can contain allergens or other chemicals that cause respiratory issues. They also contribute to musty and foul odors. High relative humidity inside of buildings can also contribute to dust mite populations, which in turn can cause allergic reactions. Finally, damp materials and furnishings can increase the emission of gaseous chemicals, like formaldehyde. It’s always a good idea to monitor the indoor environment of your facility for changes in dampness, relative humidity and to test microbial or VOC issues.
Occupant Health Concerns
Microbial growth in the form of bacteria, fungi and mold is prevalent with building dampness. These biologicals have been associated with asthma development, asthma attacks, allergic reactions and other upper respiratory issues like bronchitis, cough, infection and rhinitis. High indoor humidity can increase the spread of dust mites which are a known allergen with respiratory implications. It has been estimated that 1 in 6 people who suffer from allergies do so because of microbial growth in their HVAC and duct systems. It is critical to test to identify the source of both the dampness and microbial growth to develop a management plan to fix the conditions.
Maintaining Optimal Conditions
We have touched upon the causes of building dampness, how it impacts IAQ and how that affects occupant health. So, what can be done to reduce build dampness and fix the problems it can cause? First and foremost, if there has been any event that has caused water intrusion find it and fix it. This includes, outside leaks like from a roof or ground water entry, and inside leaks from water systems. Then clean and dry the affected area. If the area went undetected or uncleaned for a significant amount of time then testing the air and surfaces in the vicinity is recommended to qualify and quantify any microbial growth present. Also, be aware of changes to the relative humidity indoors. This could indicate outside air coming in and mixing with the conditioned air. It could also be a result of the HVAC System not functioning properly, due to dirty coils and blowers. Ultimately, a professional IAQ testing protocol is a good way to maintain building health. Building Sciences at Pure Air Control Services can conduct a wide spectrum of tests to assess the performance of the building envelope and the quality of both the indoor environment and air. These tests can be effective is finding the source and magnitude of any issues. Should an issue come to light, professional testing provides integral reference towards remediation.
The nature and extent of the building dampness issue will dictate the course for corrective action. In most all cases, it’s best to consult a professional contractor for remediation. For example, Pure Air Control Service’s Building Remediation Sciences team focuses on cleaning up issues in the HVAC and Duct Systems. PURE-Steam is just one of the services used to hygienically clean evaporator coils, blower motors, drain pans and the inside of air handling units where microbial growth can occur and be spread throughout a building.
Always keep an eye or nose out for any indications of excessive building dampness. Also, put a plan in place for inspection and preventative maintenance. Regular IAQ testing can catch issues before they spiral out of control. Hygienic cleaning of your building’s HVAC system can maintain optimal performance from both a health and energy perspective. Basically, when it comes to building dampness it all boils down to knowing your building, what to look for, and what to do about it.
For more information on IAQ Testing or PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning please contact Alan Wozniak, President, Pure Air Control Services, Inc. at 1-800-477-7873 ext. 802 or Contact Us.