Summer break seems like the ideal time to give the HVAC unit a break and save on energy costs. However, without temporary humidity control on the warmest, muggiest days, a school can easily fall victim to mold growth.
While mold infiltrates schools more easily during the summer, it negatively affects indoor air quality throughout the school year. Schools that teach a younger student body should be especially careful because their lungs are still developing, making them more vulnerable to health conditions and respiratory problems triggered by mold. Even healthy adults are susceptible to health problems caused by mold. With the help of proper moisture management, a school can ward off such problems and offer the healthy learning environment that students, teachers and administrators deserve.
The Formation of Mold
Mold is a multi-cellular fungus. While it has an important role in nature, some types of mold cause diseases or trigger allergic reactions. Single mold spores are invisible to the naked eye and are dispersed through the air or water, depending on the type. The spores are strong and can cling to objects like walls, fur, clothing, food and other items.
When a spore lands on an item that makes a suitable host, it reproduces and forms a large colony. Without special equipment, humans generally first detect the presence of mold after it forms a large interconnected network that’s visible or has a distinct odor.
The Ideal Environment for Mold
Moisture is mold’s best friend. Mold grows on damp surfaces that make an ideal host, ranging from rotten fruit to moist ceiling tiles. In schools, moisture management problems generally occur during maintenance procedures (e.g., carpet cleaning or painting), when there is reduced use of the HVAC system or the area experiences high humidity levels and the school doesn’t use temporary humidity control equipment.
Areas of schools that usually have excess moisture or a build-up of water include:
- Roofing materials
- Ceiling tiles
- Walls and wall assemblies
- The back of drywall
- Water fountains
- Bathroom tiles
- Inside HVAC systems or ductwork
- Cooling coil drip pans
- Areas where there are leaky pipes, misdirected sprinklers or poor drainage
Moisture Management for Mold Prevention
Managing moisture levels in a school is the key to keeping mold and the problems associated with it at bay. Moisture control practices to employ include:
- Using HVAC systems and dehumidifiers to control humidity levels within the building.
- Regularly conducting inspections that look for leaks, excess moisture and signs of mold.
- Immediately repairing moisture- and leak-related problems with the help of a professional.
- Immediately cleaning and drying building materials, furniture, books, papers and supplies that become wet or damp, and enlisting the help of a professional where necessary.
- Alert a professional company to remove and replace porous materials that have mold on them, such as carpeting and ceiling tiles.
- Avoiding the installation of carpeting in moist areas, such as the floor beneath drinking fountains and sinks.
- Installing and using exhaust fans in moist areas, like bathrooms and kitchens.
- Using insulation to cover cold surfaces that tend to have condensation, like pipes.
- Renting or using temporary humidity control equipment when there is a moisture problem or on hot, humid summer days.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology states that poor indoor air quality causes or aggravates up to 50 percent of illnesses in the U.S. When every school day is essential to a student’s development, it’s important that an educational institution not allow mold to become a hindering factor.
Contact Polygon to learn more about the moisture control equipment available for schools and how they can help keep classrooms healthy.
Photo by KT King via CC license