Mold susceptibility of rapidly renewable materials used in wall construction
Cooper, Aaron McGill
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Since 1998, the United States Green Building Council, via the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, has established the premiere set of guidelines for construction ethics from the standpoint of eco-friendliness and occupant safety and health in the U.S. and around the world. These guidelines are skyrocketing in use due in part to two reasons: ? increased awareness of a need for reducing, reusing, and recycling in order to save resources and natural areas for future generations; and, ? increased amount of time spent indoors in work places and homes. The LEED guidelines encourage sustainable and responsible use of land, water, energy, and materials, and promote a safe and healthy environment through use of innovative designs and technology. As part of the responsible use of materials, the LEED guidelines encourage the use of rapidly renewable materials such as cotton, straw, wool, and cork as insulation products. Although these products can be produced naturally and quickly from nature, they are also cellulose or carbohydrate based products. Cellulose and carbohydrate based materials are typically optimal food sources for mold in the presence of moisture, ironically destroying facilities and creating poor living and work environments. Samples of wool, cork, straw, and cotton--rapidly renewable materials used as exterior wall insulation products--were exposed to different moisture amounts in an encapsulated environment, representing the environment within a wall cavity when exposed to water from pipes, leaks, condensation and absorption, or from initial construction. The samples were monitored over time for mold growth. The data logged from the samples were analyzed to determine the degree of mold susceptibility of each material. In addition, samples with increased amounts of moisture were examined to determine increased promotion of mold growth. The results from this study showed that all of the above mentioned materials were highly susceptible to mold growth and that the moisture amount did not increase the rate of mold growth. Based on the data collected from this study, recommendations were made to review the current use of rapidly renewable and other cellulose and carbohydrate based materials in wall construction.