green building construction and moldThe point we are trying to make with this picture is that the meaning of green can sometimes be confusing or even misleading. Obviously green ferns growing out of a cracked chimney spells trouble. Don’t be fooled by advertising.  Many products on the market today use the word “green” in their labels without possessing any attributes related to green building construction. A second point we want to make is that not all green products are created equal because some products are better or “greener” than others. Finally, there are “green” materials that could be disastrous if used in the wrong place, as far as mold growth is concerned.

In this 4-part series on green building construction, we will explore the intrinsic properties of green products and how various components in a building can affect each other.

But first, let’s us review MOLD 101 — Mold needs “organic food” in order to grow, materials labeled “organic”, “environmentally friendly”, and “biodegradable” should raise a red flag, because these are some of the attributes of green building construction.  More than ever, builders need to exercise extreme care in choosing materials and possibly improve building designs to allow more natural ventilation.

Insulation wraps a building like a cocoon.  When insulation gets wet it will affect the rest of the building.  Notice we said “when it gets wet,” because any building can be compromised by water at any time.

In evaluating products for green building construction, it is not enough to compare a so-called mold-resistant product with other products.  Doing this in isolation is not enough; we must go one step further and find out how a product will behave when used in conjunction with other building components as well as anticipate how it will perform in various situations.

Building scientist Dr. Joseph Lstiburek discusses the pros and cons of using fiberglass and cellulose insulation. He states:

  • With a little bit of rainwater leakage, cellulose works better than fiberglass because it absorbs the rainwater, redistributes it and then lets the wall dry in a controlled way (assuming you have designed the wall to dry). With a lot of rainwater leakage, fiberglass works better than cellulose because you see the water sooner and realize that you have to fix the leak.

Since insulation saves energy we could say that it is inherently “green”, but to get it greener we need to turn to bio-based products. Manufacturers are busy developing an array of “green” products, and builders and architects select with confidence materials from this green panoply. Next question is, which one is best?  Since organic material is food for mold, we say “watch out!”

Many people believe that green building construction is free from mold, which is far from being the case.  In the next segment, Green Building Construction And Mold – Part 2, we will go over a little experiment we performed ourselves and you be the judge.

Written by Charles & Danielle Dobbs – Professional mold assessors, expert witnesses, authors of several books on mold, and mold education bloggers

Charles & Danielle Dobbs - Professional mold assessors, expert witnesses, authors of several books on mold, and mold education bloggers

Professional mold assessors, expert witnesses, and authors of MOLD MATTERS- SOLUTIONS AND PREVENTION, MOLD PREVENTION TIPS FOR THE GREEN BUILD INDUSTRY, and INSPECTION AND SAMPLING METHODOLOGIES FOR TRAINING MOLD ASSESSORS.

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