Paper Products and Mold

05/06/2004 |

The problem of mold infestation in commercial structures has grown to epidemic proportions, spreading liability fears through the lending community, as well as America’s property owners and developers. Now, in light of the insurance industry’s mounting mold exclusions – 43 states and counting – builders are beginning to adopt anti-mold measures as well.

“The time when this was ‘somebody else’s problem’ is over,” says Charles Perry, member of the mold task force for Washington, D.C.-based Mortgage Bankers Association and principal of West Hartford, CT-based Environmental Assurance Group. “After seeing the multi-million dollar lawsuits and building implosions that mold has caused just within the past year, many contractors are going the extra mile to assure developers and owners that their new buildings will not have the same fate. When general contractors and owners discuss costs now, they have begun to take into consideration the life-cycle costs.”

According to Perry, the conditions required for mold to grow include: the existence of spores, moisture in the air, a normal temperature range, and the presence of a food source (like paper). Since temperatures, airborne spores, and moisture are facts of life, he states that the only controllable variable is the food source – primarily paper-faced wallboard.

“Paper-faced wallboard comprises around 80 percent of the surface area in any post-1950s building, and unfortunately, it makes a great home for mold,” said Perry. “Now that some lenders are requiring paperless building products be used on new construction loans, contractors are concerned about the difference in price when they bid. But the cost increase – about a half of one percent of the property’s sale price – now pales compared to the business benefits. If a property owner or developer sees you’re trying to cover him for the worst-case mold scenario, he will likely look at the bids in a different way.”

Paperless wallboard, which is wrapped with fiber glass rather than paper, has only recently been developed for the inside of buildings, a technology that has been universally accepted and extremely successful for the exterior of buildings for years.

“The additional cost of building with paperless material is miniscule compared to the dramatic costs to remediate a mold infestation, not to mention the costs associated with third-party law suits stemming from bodily injury and illness and workers compensation,” says Perry.

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