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Construction, in general, is a rapidly evolving industry as contractors, architects, and engineers are tasked with keeping up with government regulations, building practices and technological innovations. While growth and evolution are pivotal components of successful projects and businesses, it’s led to a few issues, one of which involves mold.

Like the construction industry, the world of mold is evolving as more research, understanding, and awareness develops, highlighting its prevalence in buildings and the effect it can have on the health of those exposed. What industry professionals are witnessing time and again is an increasing occurrence of individuals reaching out and asking for help after experiencing exposure that led to chronic illness. The reality is that modern buildings are contributing to this rise.

The Top of the Funnel

An issue aiding in mold’s prevalence in modern-day buildings is the way in which they are built. In an effort to achieve net-zero energy-efficient buildings, construction professionals have adopted the technique of sealing buildings as tightly as possible. While this transition reduces energy costs in the building, it also introduces a few new problems that aren't always addressed in modern construction. One such issue is how the lack of airflow between the indoor and outdoor environments can lead to a buildup of contaminant particles in the building.

The Mold Aspect
When a mold colony develops, it reproduces by releasing microscopic particles called spores into the air. Some species of mold also produce microscopic toxins called mycotoxins when threatened, and, depending on the source that led to the mold growth, bacteria may be present as well. Collectively, these result in a highly contaminated space around the growth, which is why mold colonies indoors are an issue.

As long as the contamination problem in the building continues to exist, the microscopic particles being released will build up in the indoor environment should proper filtration not be integrated into the structure. The airborne particles will simply be transported by the HVAC system to other areas in the building. This leads to poor air quality and contaminated surfaces in the building, all of which can negatively impact the health of those exposed. Thanks to the small size of these particles, they’re able to make their way inside of the body through inhalation, ingestion or absorption.

It’s a common misconception that because mold exists all over the planet, it’s not harmful to the human body. With an abundance of species and the potential for other contaminants such as mycotoxins and bacteria, it’s impossible to predict how an individual will react to exposure.

Reevaluating Current Industry Practices

The potential impact this indoor contaminant can have on health is why it’s crucial for the construction industry at large to take a more-serious look at how mold growth can be prevented in modern construction and additions made to prevent growth after the structures are built. Otherwise, these spaces will continue to become toxic indoor environments that do not support the well-being of those inside the buildings. This movement toward safer premises can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but it essentially boils down to education and transformation.

Education
The first step toward better indoor environments will be ensuring industry professionals are aware of mold, toxins, and bacteria and the impact they can have on health. Currently, builders aren’t required to have a background in microbiological contamination and, as a result, anytime a problem arises, they’re giving the wrong information or not taking the proper steps because they’re uneducated. This can directly lead to contaminated environments and exposure-related illness.

The more knowledgeable industry professionals are, the more prepared they will be to implement practices to avoid contaminated environments during construction and after the project is complete. Working in tandem with educated experts is a phenomenal way to produce plans and protocols to avoid indoor spaces contaminated by mold.

Shifting Dynamic
There are a multitude of changes needed to push for safer modern buildings, but a few prevalent issues should be addressed as soon as possible. As the fungus can grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours should a water and food source be available, time is always of the essence during construction. These shifts include the following.

  1. Discourage growth during building stages. The ultimate goal is to keep the interior of the building and materials used as dry as possible. A wet surface is often a habitable surface. This can include allowing the building to properly dry out before introducing porous materials such as drywall and making sure products are stored so as to allow for airflow. With structures being built as fast as possible, it can lead to issues such as improperly drying out the space between stages.
  2. Re-evaluate products that allow for mold growth. Specific products can lead to mold growth. Polyurethane spray foam, for example, is a contributor to inhibiting airflow in a building and encouraging contamination buildup. It adds further complexity as well because water often travels behind the spray foam, so building owners aren’t able to see that there are signs of water damage or mold issues. This can allow for prolonged contamination as the mold continues to grow behind that insulation.
  3. Consult with microbial experts. Consulting with experts such as mold inspectors in between construction phases can help ensure the indoor space isn’t contaminated throughout the project.
  4. Focus on proper filtration and humidity regulation. Equipping the building with proper filtration with nanotechnology and methods to lower indoor humidity helps remove particles such as spores and opportunities that can lead to mold growth.
The Bottom Line? Safer Modern Buildings

At the end of the day, building professionals should be aware of mold, have protocols in place to combat growth in modern buildings and ensure these indoor spaces aren’t contributing to chronic illness. While these changes may increase some costs and take additional time, the headaches are absolutely worth the safety of those inside the buildings.

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