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Developers take action to mitigate mold during construction.

More developers are aware of the need to plan ahead when it comes to mold.

Why? Simply put, the lending institutions with which they do business are requiring it.

Banks understand that whether there are health issues associated with mold or not, perception is reality.

Toxic mold stories have been appearing in the media on a regular basis for some time now, and lawyers are leveraging this coverage to foster their "new business" activities.

If mold develops, the bottom line is that it won't be good for operations.

Developers know that mold can cause scheduling delays, add to the direct and indirect costs, jeopardize occupancy, and possibly result in loss of revenue as a result of withholding rent, settlements, or judgments.

The Mold Action Plan

The heightened sensitivity to mold over the last couple of years has prompted more and more developers to implement a mold action plan, which deals exclusively with the goal of reducing the risk of mold in new properties in the construction phase. It consists of procedures for handling building materials, construction scheduling, and closing up concealed spaces, among other "anti-mold" protocol.

The Mol Action Plan--What Needs to be Covered

Mold action plans should be detailed "game plans" tailored according to the particular project. The construction manager needs to handle and store construction materials in a way that protects it from any form of moisture, the primary cause of mold in the first place. Finally, owners need to be proactive in repairing any punch list conditions that allow moisture or water intrusion (whether it be leaking pipes, building envelope seepage, or HVAC issues).

Periodic Site Visits During Construction

Perhaps most importantly, the mold action plan also entails a mold consultant conducting periodic site inspections at key phases in the construction or during regularly scheduled intervals.

A mold action plan in the file of construction documents is an effective tool toward refuting potential future claims, in that the field observer will have documented the conditions as the construction unfolds. The effectiveness of a litigant's claim of mold present during the construction phase is rendered much less effective in the face of documented evidence to the contrary.

Should the project be a condominium, and the tenant organization retain a lawyer who claims the building was encumbered with mold prior to its being turned over, the periodic site visits and documented photographs can be offered up as proof that everything--from the way materials were stored to the method by which water and moisture was kept out of the structure going up, etc.--was handled appropriately.

Should mold occur at any time after construction completion, the developer may claim contributory negligence.

A new facet to the mold story is that insurance carders are now building in exclusions to their policies that preclude claims relating to mold damage. As a result, developers' need to manage their exposure to mold problems has increased. Therefore, mold action plans are steadfastly becoming a standard part of the building process.

Essentially, all new construction has the potential to allow conditions that are conducive to mold growth. The majority of building materials have the potential to be exposed to the elements (such as rain) until that particular building is essentially dried out.

Materials such as wood studs or drywall that have been exposed to the elements and not properly dried or remediated if mold growth is observed (removing mold, encapsulating with microbial coating, etc.) have the potential to create mold concerns after they are enclosed in wall and ceiling cavities.

Even though mold spores may initially be dormant or inactive, high relative humidity or moisture intrusion--via a pipe leak, roof leak, window leak, or condensation--can turn it into active mold growth. A mold action plan takes all of these issues into account and illustrates appropriate measures to avoid mold in the first place.

But wet building material is only the beginning. New construction goes through a final tweaking phase that essentially tightens up all systems and components. It is during this phase as well as during construction that building materials are the most susceptible to moisture intrusion. Remediating the affected materials as soon as possible is the key to avoiding future problems. Again, a provision for the identification of problem spots and prompt remediation would be outlined in the action plan.

Part of the plan is accepting the inevitable and then dealing with it appropriately. We have always lived with mold. After all, the only requirements for mold growth indoors are oxygen, a food source (e.g., drywall, wood, insulation, cardboard and paper, carpet backing, wallpaper adhesive, and many fabrics), and some form of moisture (e.g., water from leaky pipes or water intrusion, condensation, etc).

So, ultimately, the best defense is a good offense: Applying mold prevention practices outlined in a mold action plan during the time of construction can greatly reduce the risk of health problems for occupants and financial threats potentially caused by mold.

The key is to have a plan of action in place, and a method for acting on that plan as quickly as possible.



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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Inside Construction
Author:Rodriguez, Lizandra
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 28, 2004
Previous Article:Architect goes by the book.
Next Article:Prix d'Excellence 2005 awards.

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