Up Front: Mold and Mildew Finally Found Guilty
As a building envelope consultant, one of the services offered is a specification and plan review, complete with annotations or comments. The purpose is to ensure that all wall and roof components are properly interfaced and flashed in an effort to prevent moisture intrusion. Isn't stopping water intrusion the first step in preventing mold and mildew? I think so. Because mold and mildew need water to grow-no water, no mold!
The need to seal up a building as quickly as possible, is always a topic of conversation at pre-construction meetings and subsequent quality control inspections, etc. The prevention of moisture accumulation in the wall is a primary focus, however mold and mildew prevention is ultimately a beneficiary. So why are the aforementioned specifications starting to show up more and more? Are we moving from health concerns and remediation to prevention as the primary focus?
The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Bureau of Environmental & Occupational Disease Epidemiology's "Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments"-or the "New York Protocol" as most of us call it-states that just because someone is exposed to mold and mildew does not mean that that person will "exhibit health effects"; that is to say "allergic reactions do not always occur in all individuals." For that reason "and because measurements of exposure are not standardized and biological markers of exposure to fungi are largely unknown, it is not possible to determine ‘safe' or ‘unsafe' levels of exposure for people in general."
Oh, by the way, here's one of the many definitions for fungi: A large group of plants that lack chlorophyll and cellulose, such as mushrooms, molds and mildew. The green stuff is algae. The algae definition is mine.
Our perception is that mold and mildew is some bad stuff, however it seems to be impossible to qualify and/or quantify the affect on the health and welfare of human beings, so what criteria do we use to protect ourselves from fungi? Maybe we can't always convict mold and mildew on the health and welfare charge but what about its effect on the salability of real property? Salability of real estate, now there's an item we can qualify and quantify.
Now I refer you to an article in ASTM's June 2006 publication Standardizations, called "Surveying Mold in Buildings," by Robert Barone, R.A. and Katie Schwarting, ESQ. This article discusses the misconceptions associated with mold and the effects these misconceptions have had on real estate transactions. If it is true-and I am sure it is-that these misconceptions have in fact driven down the value of any property that may have had some association with fungi in the past, then it is only reasonable that property owners make every attempt to eliminate the possibility of mold from the get go.
The authors call the effects of these misconceptions "stigma damages"-I would call it a case of perception becoming reality. In any event, the article refers to ASTM's new standard E2418-06, "Standard Guide for Readily Observable Mold and Conditions Conducive to Mold In Commercial Buildings: Baseline Survey Process." This piece states: "This guide is intended to identify observable mold and physical deficiencies conducive to mold as a result of moisture and water infiltration ..."
This document is an attempt to eliminate the possibility of mold and mildew before the building is completed; however, if these are found, than they must be remediated before being turned over to the owner.
ASTM E2418-06 gives consultants direction and makes health and welfare a non-issue through prevention, which takes us back to the beginning: the importance of specification and plan reviews, quality control inspections by qualified building envelope consultants and to eliminate water intrusion.
The "Baseline Survey Process," as described in ASTM E2418-06, can very easily become an add-on to the close-out inspection process and as the name implies, become a component of a maintenance management program going forward.
It's just my opinion.