fear factor of moisture problemsHere’s a building owner’s real fear factor: your building is found to have mold and moisture problems. Diagnostic tests lead to a complete rebricking of the exterior, only for the same mold problems to return the following summer. That’s scary.

How could the repair have been so far off from what was actually the problem?

Most often this is a result of not paying close enough attention to mold and water damage patterns and, as a result, misdiagnosing – or only partially diagnosing – the root problem. This is especially common in cases where a building falls victim to complex moisture problems originating with multiple sources.

Occasionally, faulty diagnoses occur because one legitimate component was correctly identified but others were overlooked. For example, a rainwater leak is detected and blame is attributed, but air infiltration from a defective HVAC system that was a contributing culprit is missed. As a result, repairs to the building envelope might be recommended, but these only solve the water leak and fail to address mechanical system air infiltration and humidity issues.

Complicated moisture problems deserve a multi-disciplinary approach that includes both architectural and mechanical expertise. This keeps a bias towards the building envelope or HVAC system from becoming a negative influencing factor on the repair.

The entire scenario is a horror story in which no building owner wants to play a part. It’s hard enough to go through catastrophic building failure and expensive repairs once, but to have to repeat the process so soon after a misdiagnosis is brutal. Yet unfortunately, this is what many owners and operators are facing – particularly those of hotels and resorts in warm, humid climates.

Using damage indicators as a forensic guide, forensics experts with a trained eye should be able to detect the telltale different patterns of mold resulting from rainwater vs. mold stemming from air infiltration. This differentiation should help provide a more accurate diagnosis and resolution to the mold problem.

If you suspect your building is suffering from a mold or moisture problem, look for a building forensics firm that has experience in both building envelope and HVAC issues, as well as an understanding of how the two systems work together.