Services & Maintenance: Reducing Mold Concerns
By Chris Beyer
Published in the February 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Believe it or not, it is possible for companies to pay more for structural repairs than the original cost to construct the facility. Why? Mold. Front page news stories have raised awareness about potential health risks over mold growth and subsequent contamination. This awakening, coupled with the fear of litigation, has lead to concerns about how to address such issues.
While the true facts about mold and its effects on humans are still being debated, steps should be taken to reduce potential liability. Fortunately, facility managers can let out a sigh of relief, because there are products on the market that can help prevent bacterium development.
An obvious starting place is interior walls because their contaminates are breathed in by employees. Unfortunately, mold can develop on such surfaces as a result of any source of water exposure-from leaky pipes to air conditioners to moisture trapped in wall cavities because of non-breathable material on the walls. This omnipresent substance is there even when its not wanted.
With so many different growth enabling scenarios, it is possible to think mold is inevitable. However, that is just not the case.
In order for mold to grow, four conditions must be simultaneously present: sufficient moisture, the correct temperature range, mold spores, and an available food source. Think of these four elements as the recipe for mold growth. Without any one of them, mold cannot grow.
Creating An Alternative
The preferred food source for molds is organic materials. It is for this reason that building product manufacturers, including the manufacturers of gypsum board panels, have been busy developing new products with reduced organic components.
One new interior panel product on the market uses paperless fiberglass mats on both the front and back of the board and reduced organics in the core of the board. It is this paperless technology that helps protect against mold growth, especially on the interior cavity of the wall because what’s hidden behind the wall is the thing that causes problems. By the time a facility manager realizes there is an intrusive moisture problem behind a wall, mold has gotten a foothold. With the highest resistance to mold on the market, this paperless wallboard is ideal for hospitals, laboratories, schools, and other facilities where the concern for exposure to mold growth may be particularly high.
How do people know if their gypsum board provides the most mold resistance available? The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an independent agency that establishes test protocols for evaluation of specific products against specific standards. The interior coating test for mold growth, ASTM D 3273, is the most widely adopted standard test method to evaluate a product’s resistance to mold growth.
During this four week test, a sample of the subject material, such as a gypsum board, is placed in a closed chamber along with potting soil and mold cultures. With a constant temperature of about 90°F and relative humidity of 95% to 98%, the environment is ideal for mold growth. Each week, the testing laboratory monitors the gypsum board and measures the extent, if any, of mold growth.
At the conclusion of the test, the product is reviewed on a scale of one to 10, one being a high degree of mold growth and 10 being virtually free of visible mold. The higher the ASTM D 3273 rating achieved by a product, the more resistant it is to mold growth.
There is no single solution to resolving potential mold growth problems in the construction of buildings, but the industry is developing a number of best practices. By taking immediate corrective steps in the event of a leak-properly venting appliances, checking out condensation spots and using products engineered to resist the growth of mold-facility managers should be able to rest easier.
Beyer is national marketing manager for Atlanta, GA-based G-P Gypsum Corp. For information and installation questions about G-P products, call (800) 225-6119.
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