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Mould is present all around us every day, but scaremongering about its dangerous effects on people and property is increasing. In properties affected by water damage, a positive mould test can be a real worry and also exploited by some companies to make money. But how can we even rely on these tests and does a positive test really mean someone is in danger? These are some questions Polygon is trying to figure out.
University College London (UCL) has established the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings (UKCMB), an independent body, to investigate how they can substantially improve the way moisture risk is understood and managed in the UK. UKCMB cooperates with partners from academia, government, industry and the public. Polygon UK is one of these and has provided both money and expertise to the project. The Moisture Research Centre (FuktCentrum) at The University of Lund, which Anders Kumlin (the founder of AK Konsult, Polygon Sweden) is president of, was considered to be a key model for the UKCMB.
“A key problem in the UK is that we insulate our buildings better now and we have poorer air flow as a result. This is likely to get worse – air exchange happening less frequently in our homes. In actual fact there is always mould in your house, from the black marks on the sealant in your shower to the old piece of fruit in the fruit bowl, there can be quite high levels here and they usually don’t do any harm to most people”, says Jeremy Sykes, country president of Polygon UK & Ireland.
When UKCMB began their research, it planned to focus on new and refurbished buildings. However, Polygon introduced the idea of including existing buildings and the particular problems faced after water damage in the insurance industry.
Polygon sponsored research into an accurate and repeatable method of measuring mould contamination. Polygon and the UCL team started by collecting different samples, looked for visible mould and handed out a detailed questionnaire to homeowners. UCL analysed the results which showed that a measurement of a certain level in air and a different amount on a surface, signified high levels of mould.
“This method could be undertaken quite cheaply and easily when we are on site and maybe it is something we should do on all water damages, maybe many times through the drying process”, says Jeremy.
The study will continue and try to answer the questions on how this affects people and how to approach this. Certain people, for example those with breathing problems, or the elderly, may be especially vulnerable and this is something that insurers may need to consider.
“For Polygon this was a first step to get an accurate understanding of what this means for the homeowner and the insurer. In the long run we hope it will give us an insight into future business opportunities and guide us as to whether we need to change our way of working”, concludes Jeremy.
For more information go to www.ukcmb.org/research-areas/projects
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