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There has been an alarming increase in the number of “sick building syndrome” cases we hear or read about that result in the closure of homes and large buildings due to poor indoor air quality. The occupants cannot concentrate, lose their productivity, and in certain instances become extremely ill. Very often the poor air quality is the result of mold growth. Mold can grow almost anywhere if the conditions are right and it is only recently that we have become aware of the mold within the wall cavity or building envelope. There are specific environmental conditions required for mold to propagate. A specific temperature range and source of food are the basic factors that must be in place, but the most important element is the presence of moisture.

Moisture can enter the building envelope by several means. One common transportation mechanism is water infiltration due to imperfect construction or detailing. Water infiltrating into the building via this transportation mechanism can be substantial in quantity. The moisture infiltration is due to gravity or capillary action, and because these two transport mechanisms are efficient, there is immediate and noticeable damage usually associated with weather conditions. A second transportation mechanism for moisture to enter the building envelope is air leakage or diffusion. This mode of transport is less visible and the damage takes longer to develop.

Moisture entering the building envelope due to imperfect construction or detailing is usually easy to identify and correct. Experience has shown that when moisture travels by gravity or capillary action, the cause is usually quite evident and the contributing problem is corrected. Unfortunately this is not the case where the transport mechanism is the more complex diffusion and air leakage. In such cases the approach has often been a short term action to repair the damage by replacing the affected components instead of identifying and correcting the root causes. This approach is used primarily because of:
a lack of understanding or inability to determine the cause of the damage
and/or the lack of suitable materials to solve the preexisting condition
and/or high retrofit costs involved.



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