Green building construction calls for more organic and biodegradable materials than traditional homes. For this reason, builders must be vigilant because adding more organic materials, which is mold food, will increase the incidence of mold.
Because of a lack of knowledge, or because things do not always behave in the real world as they do in a laboratory, mistakes will be made. We live in an imperfect world and many variables come into play in the building construction. Experts in various fields must share their knowledge so that adjustments and compromises are made to optimize green buildings without creating problems.
In our previous segments on green building construction, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we covered soya-based insulation, as an example of a green product. We searched the Internet about the efficacy of cellulose insulation. Our search was inconclusive because most articles come from manufacturers promoting their own brand of cellulose insulation. They stress recycling and energy conservation with increased R-value. Some mention that their insulation is treated with fire retardants. Some do not even mention mold. Does that mean that their insulation is not treated for mold? Other companies mention that their cellulose-based insulation is mixed with boric acid, a mold deterrent. Of those who do talk about mold, most mention it only in passing.
The future will tell how cellulose insulation will behave under differing conditions. With slow leaks or with major water intrusion, such as plumbing leaks, hurricanes, or having the building soaked as a result of fire.
What are builders to choose? There are several organizations that have taken it upon themselves to develop standards for products and issue certifications for products and services that meet their own criteria. These “ecolabeling” standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and others, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN), and Green Seal (GS). These are just a few.
Green building construction is in its infancy and many mistakes will be made before we learn what works and what does not, and in which climate. Changes and improvements in building materials will necessitate changes in building codes. It is essential that experts in various fields, including mold experts, share their knowledge and experience. Researchers need to test insulation and other “green” materials, not just by themselves in a controlled laboratory environment, but in a real-world environment. We have no doubt that in the end common sense will prevail and homes and buildings of the future will be better built and be more enjoyable for the occupants.