Day after day, we’re exposed to a wide variety and concentration of mold and mold spores in a variety of environments. “Mold” is a class of fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. Mold amplification refers to visible fungal growth on building materials or furnishings in the indoor environment. Researchers suspect that with sufficient exposure some individuals, especially those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and young children, may suffer some adverse effects of mold or have an allergic response to concentrated mold spores in indoor air. For businesses, mold not only damages property, but it can also create liability exposures related to potential employee and customer adverse health issues.
Mold growth is optimal in warm, damp, and humid conditions. Fungi spread and reproduce by making spores that are distributed through the air or stick to clothing, shoes, animals, etc. Mold growth indoors is encouraged by conditions such as wet, porous building materials; humidity above 60 percent; moderate to warm temperatures; and air movement.
When these ideal conditions exist, some mold species can grow quickly, within 24-48 hours. Fungal growth can also be exacerbated by increases in humidity or water intrusion during periods of heavy water or moisture accumulation, which can be created by melting snow and ice, heavy rain, or flooding.
Controlling water and moisture accumulation in the indoor environment can help prevent mold growth. When completing any type of construction or making building repairs, consider the following recommendations:
- Project planning: Prior to the first blueprints being drawn, meet with all project stakeholders to discuss the design, materials selection, and construction process in terms of water intrusion and moisture control. Review the building’s requirements for heating and cooling, dehumidification, water drainage, and other systems that will impact water and humidity control.
- Building design: Limit the introduction of moisture or mold spore-laden air into the building’s air-handling system by incorporating air filters and climate control systems and minimizing the need to open windows and large doors. Utilize properly designed drainage, insulation, ventilation, and humidity controls to minimize exposure of moisture to walls, pipes, ducts, and other building envelope surfaces.
- Product installation: Prior to installing, inspect all materials for water damage and mold growth. Install and maintain equipment and materials per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Moisture and water intrusion control: Use insulation, caulking, and sealants to reduce the potential for moisture accumulation, water intrusion, and condensation. Have a system for collecting and removing water that enters the building, and routinely inspect all below-grade penetrations of foundation/basement walls and slabs for leakage. Make sure the building is properly ventilated, and use your HVAC system to remove moisture from indoor air. When applicable, use one-way valves on floor drains and other plumbing lines. Doing so will help minimize the risk of water (especially sewer system water) backing up into an indoor space during a flood or high-water event.
- Water damage control: Consult with a licensed mold remediation professional to evaluate, clean, and treat all water damaged areas and building materials, including anything porous such as drywall, insulation, carpets, or other fabrics. Treatment plans can vary depending on the type and extent of damage. Drying out the affected area immediately after the event can help minimize mold growth. However, if damage is extensive, removing and replacing materials may be necessary.
Controlling mold growth can be challenging, but by taking the proper precautions, you can better protect your property and maintain a safer business for customers and employees.