Mold growth is an expected after-effect following a flood or water damage incident. Any surface exposed to sitting water is ripe for an infestation and should be properly cleaned and disinfected as part of the remediation process. In some cases, however, mold outbreaks can occur in unexpected places, leading to unhealthy exposure dangers for the building inhabitants. For school facility managers working to maintain safe, healthy environments for hundreds of students, faculty, and staff, understanding conditions that lead to mold growth is important to preventing and quickly identifying potential outbreaks.
Mold remediation expert Tom Peter, a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Vice President of Insurance Restorations Specialists, Inc. (IRS) in Monroe, New Jersey, says hidden mold growth poses a real challenge for property and building managers. “When the conditions for mold growth are not obvious, or are in rarely- or hard-to-access areas, an outbreak can flourish unattended. Unfortunately, the spores are just as likely to spread throughout the building and HVAC systems, creating unhealthy environments.”
What Does Mold Need to Grow?
Spores are virtually always present, carried in and out of spaces in the air, on shoes and on clothing. Normally they are not concentrated at a level that is dangerous to people and with regular cleaning and environmental controls will not actively grow in a space.
Like plants and humans, mold needs water to live. As long as moisture is present, mold growth will continue.
While mold can grow on many surfaces, common building materials are highly susceptible to supporting outbreaks. Sheetrock, plywood, lumber, and insulation materials are common sites for growth.
The common perception is that an area must be warm and damp for mold to grow. In fact, it grows well in temperatures from 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower range is much cooler than many expect.
Peter reminds facility managers to consider these factors when anticipating likely mold growth. “After a water event, an area may appear dry, but water can ‘wick’ up into and behind sheetrock and framing. The moisture and mold may not be visible on the wall, but it’s back there.” IRS technicians use special tools that can detect moisture levels within surfaces that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Hidden mold infestations are often the result of conditions not caused by a water event per se. Peter recalls, “In one case, we found a school had experienced a steam pipe leak that led to condensation on the underside of a cold roof in the winter. It was an area not frequently inspected. When IRS arrived we discovered significant mold growth throughout the attic.”
Rampant mold growth in a school attic created an unhealthy environment for students and staff.
To remediate the problem, IRS technicians deployed HEPA vacuums and specialized supplies to clean the surface mold and air filtration to remove it from the air. “It was challenging because it was a very difficult space to work it, with many hard-to-access areas,” says Peter.
It is not always easy to anticipate potential mold growth. Property and facility managers should be mindful of the conditions that promote outbreaks while planning for regular inspections of areas prone to infestations that aren’t frequently accessed, like attics and basements. With a purposeful approach to preventing mold growth, significant and costly remediation efforts can be avoided.
About Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc.
Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff.
IRS has been selected to provide disaster recovery services to members of the Educational Services Commission of NJ (ESCNJ), the largest co-op in the state service school districts, colleges, universities, housing authorities, and other county and state agencies throughout New Jersey.
New Jersey State approved Co-op # 65MCESCCPS
RFP # ESCNJ 17/18-34
Contract Dates: 11/16/17-11/15/20