Damp – the modern menace in housing
A FIRM that investigates problems such as damp in buildings has been inundated with requests to investigate sick or “tight” building syndrome since an appearance on ITVs Buildings From Hell.
The programme highlighted the new but previously unrecognised building defects which can be identified from modern construction techniques and which create ideal conditions for toxic mould, prompting health concerns.
The quest for reduced carbon emissions from buildings – and therefore a lower level of air changes – has created a general increase in “building tightness”: new and restored buildings fail to breath properly, leading to a moisture build-up which in turn results in mould and rot.
The firm, Building Forensics, has found that the application of new building tightness conditioning such as BREEAM, LEED and part L of the Building Regulations, coupled to poor construction management, is causing such building defects and health issues.
Jeff Charlton of Building Forensics says: “Building Forensics has found increasing evidence that construction management is failing to control quality standards or, indeed, even to comply with manufacturers’ or architects’ design or installation requirements.
“Worse still, we’ve found that few surveyors or inspectors have the equipment or training to undertake non-intrusive investigation or to be able to identify hidden defects such as missing insulation, thermal bridging and the presence of toxic chemicals.”
He continues: “And Building Forensics is further finding that facility managers are increasingly mis-diagnosing design and build faults which cause condensation or pooling and mould.
“They wrongly attribute these symptoms to presumed leaks which insurers then wrongly pay to fix. And, meanwhile, the health problems continue to get worse.” The combination of high cellulose materials and misuse of vapour barriers, thermal bridging from poor or missing insulation or failure to seal the building envelope properly can result in the growth of toxic mould such as Penicillium, Tricoderma and Stachybotrys.
Jeff Charlton is at www.buildingforensics.co.uk