Preventing mold growth in buildings is important to occupant well-being and performance. There are news stories everyday about mold in hospitals, offices and schools making people sick or worse. As a result, buildings shut down, occupants relocated, and costly repairs undertaken. Some organizations even face serious legal action. So, let’s take a quick look at mold and how to prevent it.
Mold in Buildings
Mold is fungus that is commonly found in nature. Preventing mold growth within the indoor environment requires an understanding of the conditions that are favorable for its proliferation. Warm temperatures and higher humidity are critical factors for mold growth. Areas of dampness or water intrusion also allow mold to thrive. Mold grows on a variety of materials including carpet, ceiling tile, drywall, fabrics, and wood. It can also grow within the HVAC system.
Speaking of the HVAC system, as mold grows it produces a tremendous number of spores. When the spores are released they become airborne and make their way through the ventilation system. So, the HVAC system not only harbors mold growth but also distributes it through a building.
Mold and Occupants
All mold is not bad. Rather, the type and quantity are what affects people. The two most common troublemakers are Aspergillus and Stachybotrys (aka Black Mold). These molds are toxigenic, meaning they produce a substance known as mycotoxin. Mycotoxin is notoriously resilient and lingers long after the mold that produced it is gone. Since mold is basically everywhere, it’s the amount and concentration that matters. Preventing mold growth helps minimize its impact to sensitive individuals.
Mold and mycotoxin affects occupant well-being in different ways. Common symptoms include stuffy nose, wheezing and eye or skin irritation. Some folks with mold allergies or asthma have more severe reactions including those mentioned plus fever or shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to mold infections. Some of which can be life threatening.
Preventing Mold Growth
Now that you have a basic understanding of mold and buildings let’s look at 5 ways to prevent the risk to the indoor environment and building occupants.
1. Be vigilant monitoring the building envelope. Keep the building comfortable and dry. Routinely inspect all areas for moisture or water damage.
2. Repair leaks and water damage as soon as possible. +48 hours is when mold begins to proliferate. Chances are, if you see mold indoor air quality has already been compromised.
3. Stay on top of HVAC coil and drain pan cleaning. Coils accumulate dust creating a home for mold. Not to mention fouled coils decrease performance which can lead to higher humidity and temperatures in a building. Clogged or poorly draining pans are also a breeding ground for mold.
4. Make sure that all supply and return ductwork is clean and unobstructed. Mold grows easily inside dirty ducts where it is distributed through the building and back to the air handling unit (AHU).
5. Keep an eye on the areas around the HVAC fresh air intakes. For example, standing water on the roof next to the AHU might have mold spores that can be brought into the building.
Preventing mold growth in a building all begins with these routine tasks. If you see a problem in any of these five areas immediately take corrective action. If you already have a mold issue, then is best to seek professional help with remediation. Once the mold gone be sure to stick to a regular inspection and maintenance plan to minimize future risks.
For more information on building performance testing or HVAC cleaning please contact us at 1-800-422-7873 or on our contact page.