Mold & the Value of Preventative Maintenance

August 26, 2021

Throughout the nation, mold and water damage events have increased with warmer temperatures and more frequent storms. The unintended introduction of significant quantities of water into an indoor space or conditions where relative humidity or moisture content of building material is greater than normal can promote mold growth and drastically affect an indoor environment. Public and private facilities can prepare for such events by creating operational policies and procedures to address mold growth, utility failures, and flooding. This allows facility directors and property managers to rely on operation and maintenance (O&M) programs to address environmental concerns when responding to complaints and damages. Having preventive procedures in place prepares staff and saves the facility workforce hours, supplies, and equipment when addressing mold and water damage.

An O&M Plan for Moisture and Mold Control is a tool for risk management when responding to mold growth or water damage claims. An O&M plan is intended to provide property managers and their maintenance staff with guidelines for preventing, recognizing, and mitigating water intrusion events and subsequent development of mold contamination of water-damaged building materials. The plan establishes guidelines for responsibility, communications, documentation, training, and protocols essential to controlling moisture and protecting the property and its occupants. Policies and procedures of the plan are in general accordance with the currently accepted governmental and industrial guidelines for mitigation of water intrusion and remediation of mold (e.g., the US EPA “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings,” and the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) standards S100, S500, and S520).

Preventative maintenance is the most effective way to mitigate mold growth and moisture intrusion. Performing routine inspections of building exteriors to ensure intact roofing, sealed windows, and proper drainage can prevent structural leaks. Also, utilities and appliances throughout the building should be routinely inspected to identify any leaking pipes, faulty appliances, or running toilets that could cause water damage. The HVAC system is another essential part of the building system that must be inspected, along with routine maintenance. When filters are not changed, or supply outtakes become contaminated, the HVAC system becomes burdened and does not function as designed. Proper ventilation and dehumidification should be maintained to ensure good air quality and indoor conditions that do not support mold growth.

The documentation resources contained in an O&M Plan for Moisture and Mold Control often include checklists for routine inspections and templates for work orders and communicating with occupants. Routine inspections cover building exterior, roof, plumbing systems, and HVAC systems. Each checklist provides specific criteria to be thoroughly examined during routine walkthroughs of the building. Documentation templates can also standardize information necessary for work orders and mitigate liability when communicating with occupants.

Every building eventually will receive a complaint from an occupant about the building utilities or indoor environment. How maintenance staff and building management respond to complaints can have effects on legal and occupant relations. Assessments are initially performed by the maintenance staff in the field, who are first to respond to mold growth or moisture intrusion. They are responsible for identifying the source of water intrusion, assessing the extent of the damage, and delegating who will perform any subsequent remediation. It is helpful to standardize these assessments with checklists and proper documentation to ensure a thorough inspection of all affected building systems.

Facilities that work with mold professionals can respond more efficiently to hidden sources of mold growth or moisture intrusion, as well as large-scale water damage events. It is beneficial to have both a professional qualified to perform a mold inspection and mold remediation. Mold professionals may also assist facilities with other environmental concerns such as poor indoor air quality, asbestos-containing building materials, lead-based paint, and environmental cleaning.

Different roles need to work in unison to keep the management of a facility running smoothly. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the building supervisor or manager to administer routine maintenance, repair, and custodial activities and train staff on operational procedures and policies concerning mold growth and moisture intrusion. Environmental consultants are available to review policies and procedures and assist in the development of an O&M plan. Accredited mold remediators can also be retained to address any future damages promptly. Facility operations run most effectively when there is an O&M plan to prevent and respond to mold growth and water intrusion. The Benjamin Franklin proverb that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true in the world of mold and moisture prevention.

If you have any questions, you can click here to schedule a customized consultation with Shari Solomon, President of CleanHealth Environmental. In addition, we invite you to learn more about and register for our upcoming Mold Training Programs.

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