Crews are replacing heating and ventilation equipment in the Grant Sawyer state offices in Las Vegas after a report cited a possible link between leaks in the system and the presence of low concentrations of two species of mold in the building’s dust.
The report came after at least 10 state employees working at the Las Vegas building filed worker’s compensation complaints in November alleging that mold caused “building-related symptoms,” including respiratory illness and headaches, that typically go away when people leave the contaminated environment.
The investigation, led by Reno-based environmental medicine specialist Dr. James Craner, found that leaky valves in the heating and air conditioning system may have allowed water to drip into the ceiling tiles, creating a friendly environment for mold spores to grow.
Though the moldy dust on its own doesn’t prove that the leaks created a contamination, fixing the HVAC system and cleaning the “presumably mold-contaminated carpet” of dust could clear the low levels of mold, the report said.
“These HVAC leaks and occupant health complaints are postulated to be the same as those that occurred in the mid-1990s,” Craner wrote on April 4, referring to a prior “sick building syndrome” case that plagued the state office building. The mold likely settled in the carpet and could be inhaled by employees while they walk or conduct office maintenance, the report read.
Tests on the air’s mold concentrations came back nonharmful, and samples of settled dust showed very low concentrations. The two mold species detected at higher concentrations throughout the building included the Stachybotrys chartarum, which is “highly associated with building-related symptoms,” the report said.
Nevada Department of Administration Director Patrick Cates wrote in an update Friday that the state was following Craner’s recommendations to replace the HVAC valves throughout the building by May 5.
The department also plans by July to deep-clean the building’s carpets and other surfaces that may have been contaminated by mold.
Four months after the deep cleaning, the department will retest for mold, Cates said.
“If the tests continue to show atypical molds, we will continue with further investigations and remediation measures until these concerns are resolved,” Cates wrote.
Mold exposure can cause stuffy nose, wheezing and red or itchy eyes in those sensitive to it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with asthma or mold allergies could face more intense symptoms.
Severe reactions include fever and shortness of breath.
After Michigan’s governor announced the state will stop providing free bottled water to residents of Flint — afflicted four years ago by lead-tainted drinking water — churches and charities said Monday they’re bracing for a surge in people seeking help.
“Normally we give out whatever a family wants,” said Bill Quarles, a deacon of the First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. “But now we may have to limit that until more supplies come in.”
The church has been handing out bottled water for the past three years, and typically sees about 100 to 200 cars a week. With fewer resources for residents, First Trinity isn’t sure what to expect when the cars come through beginning Tuesday.
Much-needed donations from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Baltimore, Maryland, aren’t expected at the church until the weekend — and contributions have already been dwindling as water crisis no longer grabs daily headlines.
“The country thinks that the water is fine,” Quarles added, “but the residents and the city of Flint do not trust what’s being said.”
The state’s decision to close the four remaining bottled water stations comes as Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday that strides have been made to reverse the high levels of lead that were found in the water supply.
The city’s water has tested below the federal lead and copper limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for about two years, state officials said. Levels of 4 ppb were recorded in Flint during the first three months of 2018.
“We have worked diligently to restore the water quality and the scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” Snyder said in a statement, adding that state taxpayers have given more than $350 million to the struggling city, in addition to $100 million from the federal government.
“We will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward,” Snyder said.
Residents and local officials criticized the move, noting that many in the city of 100,000 remain distrustful after their water supply was contaminated with lead for 18 months. The contamination happened in 2014 and 2015 when officials of the financially strapped city switched to using river water that wasn’t properly treated.
That untreated river water leached lead from pipes into Flint’s drinking supply, and later tests showed high lead levels in some local schoolchildren.
The state of Michigan settled a lawsuit last year agreeing to spend $87 million to rip up and replace miles of waterlines leading to at least 18,000 Flint homes by Jan. 1, 2020. More than 6,200 homes have had their pipes replaced so far, Snyder said Friday.
The state will continue to provide free water filters, cartridges and water testing kits until all the lines have been replaced. In addition, a lawsuit deal with the state and school groups reached Monday could provide $4.1 million toward helping Flint children get necessary tests and screenings to determine any special education needs.
Kristin Totten of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said the agreement is a “critical first step,” but there’s still more litigation over Flint children with disabilities.
Direct access to clean water, meanwhile, remains a serious concern.
“Over the past few weeks, residents of Flint have been expressing their great anxiety over the potential end to the supply of bottled water,” Mayor Karen Weaver wrote in a letter to state officials on Thursday. “Free bottled water should be provided to the people of Flint until the last known lead-tainted pipe has been replaced.”
The fallout from the contaminated water crisis prompted criminal charges last year against several state officials for involuntary manslaughter after a Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Flint area led to the deaths of at least 12 people in 2014 and 2015.
Among those implicated are Nick Lyon, the state’s health chief, and Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical officer charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. Preliminary hearings were held last month in their cases.
Flint resident Barbara Davis, a secretary at Mt. Calvary Church, one of the houses of worship providing free bottled water, said there remains acrimony toward the state.
“There’s still the concern, there’s still the frustration,” Davis said. “The water still needs to be provided by the state until people are comfortable with what they’re saying. After everything, you begin to be mistrustful of what we’re being told.”
Flint resident Melissa Mays — who filed the lawsuit that led to a court-ordered agreement under which the state and federal governments are paying to replace pipes made from lead or galvanized steel — said she still cooks with bottled water.
“My water stinks. It still burns to take a shower,” she told The Associated Press. “There’s no way they can say it’s safe.”
Flint resident Mary Corbin told MLive.com that she also uses water in bottles for more than just drinking or cooking, but her personal hygiene as well.
“I think it’s really cruel what they’re doing to us as a city, as a whole,” she said. “We’ve been struggling over four years almost. It’s just cold-hearted — now they’re taking our drinking water away from us.”
Schools Superintendent Robert Zega said school officials are working with environmental consultants to determine the best course of action for remediation after air quality issues of mold and asbestos have resulted in the closure, reopening and again re-closure of the elementary school on Indiana Avenue in the Iselin section of the township.
Students had been attending split sessions at Iselin Middle School since March 5.
The elementary school reopened on March 19 after test results of mold had been resolved; however, on March 28, the students were back at Iselin Middle School.
“Recent test results have caused us to temporarily close the school, out of an abundance of caution,” Zega said in a statement on March 28. “The health of our students and staff is, and always will be, our top priority. Therefore, the students will be attending Iselin Middle School on split sessions until we are able to re-open. We appreciate the patience of our entire school community throughout this difficult process.”
As of March 29, asbestos was found in a classroom on desks, according to a test report posted on the school district’s website.
School officials did not give a time frame on how long Indiana School will be closed.
On Jan. 27, RAMM Environmental Services, Inc., of Fairlawn, Bergen County, conducted an indoor air/surface quality assessment report for the school’s principal’s office, main office and a classroom, which found levels of mold exceeding outdoor concentrations in the tested areas.
The elementary school was temporarily closed on Feb. 23 and the students were off from school for a week.
On March 1, Zega sent a letter to parents and guardians of students at Indiana School to explain the temporary closure of the school and the decision to hold split sessions at Iselin Middle School.
Zega said in the letter Iselin Middle was a reasonable choice because it is relatively close and it has the capacity for the 600 students from School No. 18.
The Woodbridge Township Education Association (WTEA) had McCabe Environmental Services, LLC, of Lyndhurst, Bergen County, collect various types of asbestos samples from within the school.
Asbestos contamination was found in a debris sample that was collected from atop of a suspended ceiling tile system.
“Based on the data we have collected we can conclude that the locations tested are not considered an asbestos hazard for occupancy at this time,” John H. Chiaviello, vice president at McCabe Environmental Services, said in a letter to Brian Geoffroy, president of the WTEA, on March 16.
However, he said any disturbance of the ceiling system could pose a potential health hazard if the debris is not addressed.
“Based on our observations, there is no evidence of remnant ceiling plaster, fireproofing, pipe or other insulation above the drop ceiling that could be the source of the asbestos detected in the sample,” Chiaviello said. “Since the school is a one-story building, along with recent solar panel modifications to the roof deck, we suspect the source to be the roofing materials that have been disturbed and penetrated through to the ceiling system below.”
Try explaining to a 6-year-old boy that he can’t live with his mother because her apartment is ridden with mold.
Shanica James has tried. But her son, Cafarie, a smart, high-spirited first-grader, just doesn’t understand.
For the past four months, ever since James, a 27-year-old nursing home worker, discovered pervasive dark mold hiding behind the drop ceiling tiles in their living room, they’ve lived some 90 miles apart.
Worried about her son’s health, James sent him to live with his father in Vineland, Cumberland County. Meanwhile, she’s been living alone in their musty one-bedroom apartment in Brick, which is so damp it literally rains indoors.
Whenever it rains or snows, she says, water seeps from the roof down into the second-floor unit, forming beads of moisture that cling to the discolored ceiling like dew on a bruised peach.
One day last month, falling droplets pit-patted onto a waterlogged couch every so often as James told her story, her gloom matching the grimness of her surroundings.
“A week ago was my son’s birthday, and I couldn’t even get him here because of the mold,” she said, overcome with emotion.
“He called me and said, ‘Mommy, you coming to pick me up?’ and I said, ‘I can’t pick you up, because of the mold.’
“He was so mad,” she said, wiping her tears. “It’s just terrible the way I’m living.”
You can watch James tell her story in the video below.
At first her Brick apartment seemed fine, but then the black mold appeared and it turned Shanica James’ life into a living hell.Peter Ackerman
A renter nightmare
A bucket of bleach and a little elbow grease won’t solve James’ housing issues.
A breakdown in New Jersey’s tenant protection laws, coupled with the lack of any regulations pertaining to mold, has left her in an impossible bind.
James says that when her landlord failed to do anything to correct the mold issues, she withheld her rent, as allowed under the law. But the strategy backfired miserably.
After the landlord filed a complaint to have James evicted, the best deal James’ lawyer could get was for her to move out within 30 days and let the landlord keep her $1,350 security deposit, even though her apartment never had a certificate of occupancy as the law requires.
She wants to leave — who wouldn’t if they were living in a $865-a-month terrarium? But because she now has an eviction filing on her record, even though the case was settled, James says other landlords won’t rent to her.
Since the 1970s, New Jersey has had a reputation for having some of the strongest tenant protection laws in the country.
But the roach- and rat-infested apartments the Asbury Park Press visited as part of its “Renter Hell” investigation last year show how badly the system is broken.
The reasons, the Press found, include shoddy inspections, renters who risk being blacklisted merely for asserting their rights in court, and negligent landlords that hide behind New Jersey’s limited liability corporation laws to avoid having to pay fines and make repairs.
The people most likely to fall through the cracks are low-income renters like Shanica James. A single mom from Jamaica, she makes $13 an hour working 60 to 80 hours per week as a certified home health aide and nursing assistant at a nursing home in Wall.
Mold adds another element of risk to the calculus of renting.
Eradicating it is another roll of the dice since mold remediation contractors in New Jersey don’t need to be licensed or have any special certification, as they do in New York and a handful of other states.
Mold is a fungus. To thrive, it needs a warm, moist environment and something to eat, be it drywall, insulation, carpet glue or dirt. All it takes is a leaky pipe or a buildup of condensation due to insufficient ventilation to create the ideal growing conditions. Sometimes it’s visible, as it is on James’ ceiling, and other times it’s hidden, quietly lurking inside walls, basements, crawl spaces or air-conditioning units.
Mold is everywhere, even in the tidiest, most well-maintained homes. There are thousands of different varieties. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the term “toxic mold” is a misnomer. Mold by itself isn’t toxic or poisonous, but certain types of mold release toxins into the air that can make some people feel sick if they have a mold allergy, a weakened immune system or a lung condition such as asthma or emphysema, the CDC says.
Symptoms of mold sensitivity range from sneezing, coughing and watery eyes to more serious respiratory problems. There is no established link between mold exposure and more serious health problems, such as lung hemorrhages or memory loss, the CDC says.
No testing has been done on the mold in James’ apartment so she doesn’t know what type it is, though she says the musty air makes her feel congested.
New Jersey has strict rules on the books to guard against other household hazards, such as lead paint, asbestos and radon gas. But there are no state or local codes regulating mold. Nor are there any federal thresholds for mold. The township code inspector who visited James’ apartment when she first noticed her ceiling leaking in November didn’t even mention mold in his report, since it’s not covered by the municipality’s property management code. “Water droplets visible on ceiling above tiles,” the report states.
James says she contacted the Ocean County Health Department. She says she was told the department doesn’t test for residential mold.
Brian Rumpf, the department’s director of administration and program development, said the presence of mold in a restaurant would qualify as an unsanitary condition that would have to be corrected.
“But in a residential context our function is really education,” said Rumpf, who is also a Republican assemblyman representing part of Ocean County. “We’re not a code enforcement agency in that regard.”
It’s the same in Monmouth County and throughout the state.
“Because there’s no standards, there’s nothing in an ordinance we can write up as a violation,” explained David Henry, the health officer for the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission, a shared public health agency that serves 21 Monmouth County towns.
“Even if you do the testing and determine that it’s one of the toxic mold spores, we still don’t have any regulatory authority to address that situation,” he said. “Basically, it winds up being a negotiation between the landlord and tenant.”
‘Nothing was done’
James lives in Olympic Gardens, an 80-unit apartment complex off Route 88 in Brick.
James and her son moved there on June 1, 2016. An appreciative family whose elderly parents she cared for until their deaths helped get her settled. She says she was so excited to have a nice apartment that she slept on the floor the first night before her furniture arrived.
James says she didn’t know that the apartment didn’t have a certificate of occupancy, which is required whenever a new tenant moves in. To get one, the apartment would have had to have passed a municipal inspection, but in a letter to James’ lawyer the code enforcement supervisor in Brick, Christopher J. Romano, said no certificate of occupancy had been issued for the unit since June 1, 2016, when James’ lease went into effect.
Multi-family rental properties also need a certificate of inspection from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which is responsible for inspecting each property every five years. Olympic Gardens obtained its state certificate in 2015, after correcting 80 violations cited in its last DCA inspection, records show. But James’ apartment isn’t listed as being among the units the state inspector checked.
The owner of Olympic Gardens at the time James moved in was Longwood Avenue LLC, which used a beeper store in downtown Lakewood as its mail drop. Longwood Avenue sold the property on June 26 to Lakewood-based Brick Apartments LLC for $10.1 million, records show.
James says she had no complaints about the apartment until November, when she noticed water leaking from the ceiling tiles of her living room. She says she contacted her landlord multiple times about the mold and water leaks by telephone and email but, she said, “nothing was done.”
James’ lease identifies the principal operator of Brick Apartments as Jake Klor. Klor did not return three telephone messages left with the management company that operates Olympic Gardens. The company, Olive Tree Management, responded by email with the following statement:
“Brick Apartments LLC only recently took over this property. Our company prides itself on taking difficult properties and improving them. We take every legitimate complaint very seriously.”
In a separate email, the company added: “While we aren’t prepared to have an interview on the matter, a little bit of research will show that one of the tenants in question is in legal proceedings due to violations of their lease.” The company declined further comment.
At the urging of a co-worker, James contacted the Brick Township code enforcement department. The inspector uncovered the mold when he removed ceiling tiles to trace the source of the leak, James says. You can read the inspector’s follow-up report below.
In January, James hired a lawyer, Brian F. O’Malley, and began withholding her rent payments. Within days she received an eviction notice.
A legal doctrine known as the “implied warranty of habitability” ostensibly protects tenants in situations where a rental unit isn’t fit for anyone to live in.
It means the property owner is obligated to provide a tenant with a livable home. But as James would discover, asserting that right carries hazards of its own.
Under New Jersey law, a tenant in a substandard rental can pay for repairs and then deduct the amount from their rent. That’s not a viable option, though, in instances where mold remediation and structural repairs can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Another option is to stop making rent payments until the problem is fixed. If the landlord files an eviction complaint, the tenant can use the warranty of habitability as a defense in court in a separate proceeding called a rent abatement or “Marini” hearing, named after a 1970 New Jersey Supreme Court case.
But to qualify for such a hearing, a tenant is first required to deposit any rent money owed into an escrow account held by the court until the case is resolved. O’Malley told the Press that his initial plan was to negotiate James’ move to another unit in the same complex, rather than to seek a Marini hearing. But he said he did advise James to deposit the back rent she owed into an escrow account.
James didn’t do that. She says she used $1,000 of the approximately $3,000 in back rent payments for January through March to hire O’Malley and needed the rest to pay other bills. As a result, O’Malley said, he had little leverage to work with.
“I saw the apartment too and I thought it was a disgrace for anybody to have to live there,” O’Malley said, “but we weren’t able to push the habitability issue.”
The best deal he could get James was 30 days to move out, rather than the five days required when there’s an eviction order. In exchange, the landlord kept James’ $1,350 security deposit. Because the apartment didn’t have a certificate of occupancy, the landlord wasn’t legally entitled to back rent, O’Malley said.
Seeing no other option, James signed the agreement.
There is, however, another course of action available to tenants in these situations: a constructive eviction.
Tenants can argue in court that the landlord has broken the lease by not maintaining the rental unit in a livable condition, thereby violating the warranty of habitability. If successful, the tenant is free to move without having to pay off the balance of the lease, and the landlord cannot keep the security deposit.
But there’s a risk there, as well. The judge may not agree that the problems are that severe, in which case the lease remains in effect.
Standards a sticking point
New Jersey’s lack of mold regulations isn’t unusual. A 2015 analysis by Elizabeth Ann Glass Geltman, an associate professor at the The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy in New York City, identified 11 states that regulate mold remediation: Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
A few states, including California, have taken steps toward establishing standards for mold in indoor air, but none have standards in place yet. Some cities have adopted their own mold ordinances.
A few cities, including New York City and San Francisco, have enacted ordinances that make landlords responsible for cleaning up mold.
Attempts have been made over the years to established standards for mold in New Jersey, without success.
Among the lawmakers who have tried is state Sen. Robert W. Singer, R-Ocean. His bill, crafted in response to the mold issues caused by flooding from superstorm Sandy in 2012, met with resistance from the state Department of Community Affairs, he said.
“New Jersey wanted national standards set by the federal government first,” Singer said.
Singer’s latest effort, introduced in January, is S-460, titled the “Mold Safe Housing Act.”Co-sponsored by state Sen. Thomas H. Kean Jr., R-Morris, it would allow tenants living in mold-contaminated rental housing to request that their landlord have the mold effectively removed, or relocate them to safer rental housing at the landlord’s expense.
In addition, the bill would require all rental housing in the state to be inspected for mold whenever there’s a change of occupancy. Multi-family rental properties also would have to be checked for mold as part of their five-year state inspection.
A separate bill, A-1433, would require the state Department of Community Affairs to establish procedures for inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities, and certification programs for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers.
Richard Buckley, director of the Rutgers University Plant Diagnostic Laboratory in Millville, said those standards are the sticking point. The problem, he said, is that there is no scientific consensus on where to set thresholds for the many types of molds that can populate a home
“I think the whole idea of a threshold is the issue because I can tolerate a lot more (mold) than my mother, who’s 85,” Buckley said. “So where do you set a standard? Do you set it for me, or do you set it for her?”
‘Too afraid to look’
Whatever becomes of the proposed legislation, it will come too late for Shanica James.
With her April 11 deadline to move out looming, she reluctantly made plans to rent a room in a private home in Neptune where a co-worker’s niece and her father also live.
It’s a temporary arrangement, she hopes, until she can find a place of her own. In the meantime, her son Cafarie will remain with his father in Vineland.
James said she was feeling sorry for herself until a few weeks ago when she happened to run into her next-door neighbor at Olympic Gardens, Jashauna Creadle.
The two women hadn’t spoken before, and they got to talking about the problems James was having with the mold in her living room.
James invited Creadle in to see for herself. Then Creadle pulled out her phone and showed James what the mold was like in her apartment.
Judging from the photos, it appeared to be even worse.
Creadle, 27, says an Olympic Gardens maintenance worker treated and re-painted the affected area inside her bedroom closet more than a year ago, but she’s worried the mold has come back, or never really went away. She says she’s “too afraid to look” under the ceiling tiles to know for sure because she has nowhere else to go.
A single mother like James, Creadle shares the one-bedroom unit with her two daughters, ages 9 and four months. The 9-year-old, Jalylah Vasquez, has asthma and told the Press the musty air “makes my throat itchy and I start coughing.”
“It’s like every month she’s sick. She misses a lot of school which causes me to miss a lot of work, which makes me fall behind on my rent,” said her mother, who is currently unemployed. “The pulmonologist explained that as long as we’re in a home with mold, she’s not going to be better.”
The monthly rent for their apartment increased this year from $800 to $950, she said. “I just want to get out of here,” Creadle said. But with an eviction filing on her record, as well, she’s finding it difficult, too. Olive Tree Management declined to comment.
Her neighbor’s predicament put her own problems in perspective, James says.
“I don’t have it bad,” she said after visiting Creadle’s unit, “she does.”
Like Creadle, James said she’s been too afraid to check behind the ceiling tiles in her bedroom to see if there was mold there also, preferring to believe that her bedroom, at least, was a sanctuary from the mold lurking right outside the door.
After returning from Creadle’s apartment, though, she mustered up the courage.
Stepping onto the air-conditioning unit sitting on the floor, James reached up and, with her finger, gingerly lifted the corner of one of the tiles, just an inch or two.
Seeing a black substance, she quietly lowered the tile and stepped down.
“I was in shock,” she said later. “I’m not safe at all in that place.”
We are going to tell the bare truth: you cannot make your house mold-proof. The spores are tricky and very easy to catch on to the right conditions. Moreover, mold spores are everywhere, waiting for the best environment for growth.
You can, however, create a house with mold prevention strategies. If small spots of mold appear around the house, identifying and correcting them can save you from an infestation later on. The experts at Fun Guy Inspections want to give you the most dead-simple methods of mold prevention in the following paragraphs.
The first and most natural mold prevention technique is to improve air circulation in your home. Mold cannot grow unless it has a couple of specific conditions, and a closed space with poor airflow is one of them.
It does not mean you will have to keep your windows open at all times. All you have to do is make sure that every inch of your house is well ventilated, at least for several hours during the day. Especially during the day, because mold cannot grow in dark spaces.
Another mold prevention tip is to keep all surfaces dry whenever possible. If you had a leak and a part of your wall is wet, look to dry it immediately. If you keep wet spots around the house, that is where you should expect mold to grow.
Another condition for mold spores to latch on and develop is humidity. Combined with limited airflow, the spores will come and grow on your walls and surfaces in no time. However, if you make sure that everything is within good boundaries humidity wise, then mold will not have its most important growth factor fulfilled. It will make it much harder for mold to grow if you keep your house dry, especially your basement!
One last tip for Mold Prevention would be a close inspection of your home for problematic areas. If you see small mold spots here and there that keep returning you should have your house checked. Look around for the formerly mentioned conditions. Where in your home do you have great humidity levels? Where is there not enough air flow but good amounts of sunlight?
If you do not know how to inspect your house for mold, our experts from Fun Guy Inspections can help you with the matter. The team will come to your house, take a close look at your surroundings and tell you where the mold is coming from; Not only that, they will give you further tips on how to remove and prevent the mold from getting into your house ever again. An expert helping hand will make your house mold-free, and it will teach you how to keep it that way.
Practice the first two mold preventions tips from the moment you get your new house. Doing so will give you a great chance of never having to deal with mold. However, if mold finds its way on your premises, call Fun Guy Inspections, and we will take care of it.
Luke Ruchi, a freshman business major from Savannah, expected to have the classic freshman experience in the typical, shoe-box-size dorm, but he didn’t expect to hear the sounds of construction at Oglethorpe House or to be living in a dorm with leaks and sprouting mold.
Despite the recent renovations, complaints of random leaks and mold have been common among O-House residents since the fall semester of 2017.
“In the fall semester, University Housing received several requests from residents of Oglethorpe House to investigate possible mold conditions,” said Stan Jackson, director of student affairs communications and marketing initiatives.
From day one when Ruchi and his three roommates moved into O-House, he said there was a leak in the corner ceiling of their room which would cause a handful of problems and work requests throughout the semester.
Ruchi said maintenance responded the first two times by caulking the leak, but the leak kept coming back, resulting in University Housing moving in large industrial fans to dry up the carpet.
After several work requests, Ruchi said he emailed Housing asking to look into the leak more.
In less than a week, Housing inspected the dorm and came to the conclusion that all four students had to move out of the dorm due to “the need for construction work in the ceiling of their room,” Jackson said.
Toward the end of the semester, Ruchi said he kept getting sick with a sore throat that he thought could have been attributed to the mold.
“Obviously my dad and mom were concerned about my health during all of this,” he said.
Ruchi and his three roommates were moved out of their Oglethorpe dorm room to different residential halls in November because of the leak and the mold the leak was causing. The four students were the only residents moved out of Oglethorpe Hall because of mold.
Dr. Larry Smith, an allergist-immunologist at Allergy Partners of Georgia in Athens, said generally mold allergies are fairly common and occur in 25 to 30 percent of the population.
Smith said patients can contract symptoms such as “nasal congestion, runny nose, itching of the eyes, ears, nose, or throat. Sometimes they can get respiratory problems with wheezing, coughing, asthma type symptoms and bronchitis” from airborne mold spores.
Jackson said nine of the 20 work requests concerning possible mold conditions were “truly mold” that required attention from the housing staff.
“Even in those cases, those molds are the type to which humans are commonly exposed every day, and typically do not pose a health risk to our students,” Jackson said. “Even so, the health and wellbeing of our students is of primary importance to us, and we certainly encourage all of our residents to report any facilities concerns, including what they believe to be mold.”
In a later statement, Jackson said the mold is the “same type of common bathroom mold that occurs sometimes on surfaces that stay damp.”
Alexandra Hammock, a freshman English major from Loganville, said she had bronchitis three weeks during the fall semester that she said could have been attributed from the black-colored mold in her dorm.
Similar to Ruchi’s case, Hammock said her dorm had leaks and mold since the first week she and her roommates moved in. She has continued to have on and off mold problems.
“During our first week of class, the light above our shower fell, and we had a huge hole in our ceiling. We could see black mold growing inside of the interior of the ceiling,” Hammock said.
After three work requests between the first week of school and Thanksgiving break, maintenance responded and fixed the issue, but shortly after, Hammock said the ceiling started leaking again.
“Since we got the light replaced, water has kept dripping from the ceiling again,” Hammock said. “My friend removed the light, and it was filled with water. So we had to rig up a bucket to catch the water.”
Aside from mold being caused by leaks within the bathroom, Hammock said Housing’s custodial services does not consistently clean her bathroom thoroughly, which could contribute to the mold issue in Oglethorpe.
“Shower heads are really moldy. Mold is all over the doors. Bathroom floors are always really, really dirty despite the fact Housing is supposed to cleaning the bathroom weekly,” she said.
Jackson said Housing makes it a priority to respond to all work requests concerning the possibility of mold.
“In all cases, when residents report the possible presence of mold, housing staff addresses it immediately,” Jackson said. “As with all facility concerns, housing staff works hard to be responsive to work requests. If a student feels they are having ongoing mold problems, we encourage them to either submit a work request online through our housing website or contact any staff member who can submit a request on their behalf. “
Jackson said there are no rooms with multiple mold requests at this time.
The rise of sustainability in institutional and commercial facilities has created a host of challenges for managers in these facilities. Not the least of these challenges is striking a balance between building design and operation decisions that are environmentally friendly but that also are practical. Designs and operation decisions that tilt too far in one direction tend to create unforeseen problems that divert valuable resources from other areas of the facility. Consider the case of Apple’s flagship store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Winter has struck the store, and the hysteria has begun. With icicles dangling from the store’s ultrathin carbon fiber roof and caution signs and yellow tape cordoning off sections of the store’s outdoor plaza, internet commentators rushed to the judgment that the store is poorly designed for the city in which it sits, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.
Writes blogger Matt Maldre, “Maybe next time Apple will consider the actual community where their stores are built. Y’know, basic things like in Chicago, the weather gets cold. It snows. The snow falls off the roof. Don’t design a sloping roof where the snow can’t be caught or guttered off somewhere.”
Read: Building design for productivity and sustainability
Point taken. But let’s put this in perspective. Winter happens. And architects often aren’t prepared for it. Such shortcomings undercut their achievements and their credibility as problem-solvers. Yet the faults do not altogether vanquish the value of their designs.
By the myopic standard of the commentators, Frank Gehry’s snaking BP Bridge in Millennium Park is a failure. The bridge has a wood deck. In the past, when snow piled up on it, it had to be closed lest the metal blades of city snow plows gouge holes in its forgiving wood surface. Substitute concrete for wood on Gehry’s bridge and you would have a far more ordinary span. It would be open 365 days a year, but the journey across it would be less easy on the feet and less lifting to the spirit.
Learn more about the role of sustainability in resilient facility design.
There are times when it is advisable to bend the narrow rule of form following function in favor of a broader perspective that considers the trade-off between the two and how that trade-off affects what ultimately counts — how buildings and the rest of the built environment shape human experience.
Not that getting conked on the head with the icicle is acceptable. Apple spokesman Nick Leahy says the building’s architects, London-based Foster + Partners, had designed the glass-walled store with winter in mind but had been foiled by a technical malfunction.
“The roof has a warming system that’s built into it,” he says. “It needed some fine-tuning, and it got re-programmed today. It’s hopefully a temporary problem.”
In the March 1942 issue of the journal Modern Hospital, Charles F. Neergaard, a prominent New York City hospital design consultant, published a layout for a hospital inpatient department that was so innovative he copyrighted it. The plan held two nursing units—groups of patient rooms overseen by a single nursing staff—in a single building wing. For each unit, a corridor provided access to a row of small patient rooms along a long exterior wall and to a shared service area between the two corridors.
The feature that made his plan so innovative—and therefore risky? It included rooms that had no windows.
A windowless room hardly seems daringly innovative nowadays, but in the 1940s it was a shocking proposal for a patient wing. It violated a long-lived understanding of what, exactly, the role of the hospital building should be in terms of promoting health.
For nearly two centuries, hospital designers had based their layouts on a fundamental assumption: In order to remain disease-free and health-giving, hospital spaces required direct access to sunlight and fresh air. This rule was the product of a centuries-old belief that disease could be spread by, or perhaps even directly caused by, dark, stagnant spaces where bad air—smelly, vitiated, stagnant, particulate-laden air—accumulated.
In the late 18th century, this correlation was statistically certain. Epidemics always hit the tenants of crowded, impoverished urban districts harder than the inhabitants of airier, wealthier neighborhoods. Patients in large urban hospitals suffered cross-infections and secondary infections far more frequently than patients in rural or small-town hospitals. It was common knowledge that if windowless rooms didn’t directly breed disease, they bred the conditions that led to disease.
Given this correlation, before the 20th century, every single room within a hospital typically had access to the outdoors. Corridors had windows. Linen closets had windows. In some hospitals even the ventilation ducts and enclosures for plumbing pipes and risers had windows. Windows in patient rooms and operating rooms were so large that the glare caused problems—keeping patients awake and causing momentary blindness in surgeons during operations.
Late 19th-century and early 20th-century advances in medical theories and practices altered, but did not erase, a faith in windows. With the development of germ theory, sunlight and fresh air had new purposes. Experiments proved that ultraviolet light was germicidal. So windows of clear glass, or even of special “vita-glass” that did not block the UV rays, were a means of surface decontamination.
Similarly, tuberculosis sanatoria records proved that simple exposure to fresh air could be curative. The hospital building itself was a form of therapy. In a 1940 issue of the architectural journal Pencil Points, Talbot F. Hamlin confidently noted that “the quality of the surroundings of the sick person may be as important in the cure as the specific therapeutic measures themselves.”
But surroundings were important, partly, because of who went to hospitals in the first place. Indeed, until the late 19th century, medical treatment was not the reason to go to a hospital—poverty was. The vast majority of 19th-century hospital patients were charity cases—sick people who could not afford a doctor’s house call, had no family to care for them, and had no place else to go. A patient would occupy the same bed in a hospital ward—which housed anywhere from half a dozen to 30 patients—for weeks, sometimes even months. The doctor made rounds once a day. Nurses provided food, changed bandages, cleaned, and changed linens—but provided very little in terms of hands-on treatment. The hospital’s scrupulously clean, bright, airy rooms were an environmental antidote to the tenement surroundings from which impoverished patients came.
But the population of hospitals changed in the first decades of the 20th century. Medical advances, urban growth, and philanthropic transformations turned hospitals into a new kind of institution—where persons of all classes went to get cutting-edge treatment. Anesthesia and asepsis made hospital surgeries not only safer but also more bearable. New equipment like x-ray machines, ophthalmoscopes, and cardiographs improved diagnostic and therapeutic options. Bacteriological lab technicians could identify pathogens with a certainty undreamed of during the preceding era of symptomatic diagnosis. By the early 20th century, what happened in hospitals was increasingly about medical procedures and efficient workflow, not the ostensible healthiness of the environment in itself.
These changes made the limitations of the earlier “therapeutic” hospital designs glaringly apparent. In order to provide a window in every room, buildings could not be wider than two rooms deep; this inevitably required multiple long narrow wings. Such rambling structures were expensive to build, prohibitively expensive to heat, light, and supply with water, and inefficient and labor-intensive to operate. Food reached the patients cold after being trucked from a distant central kitchen; patients requiring operations were wheeled through numerous buildings to the surgical suite.
Hospital designers thus began to arrange practitioners, spaces, and equipment into a more effective layout. Catchwords changed from “light” and “air” to “efficiency” and “flexibility.” An emphasis on efficiency rapidly took over the utilitarian areas of the hospital; time and motion studies determined layouts and locations of kitchens, laundry, and central sterile supplies. Diagnostic and treatment spaces were re-designed to establish efficient, but aseptically safe, paths for the movement of patients, nurses, technicians, and supplies.
But, initially, it left the design of inpatient departments unaltered.
Hospital designers and practitioners worried that patient areas designed for efficiency, not healthiness, would prolong treatment, impede recovery, or even cause deaths. In a 1942 issue of Modern Hospital, Lt. Wilber C. McLin considered it “unthinkable even to consider the possibilities of applying time and motion studies to the methods of direct patient care.” Inpatient departments remained sacrosanct temples of light and air.
By the 1940s, therefore, most hospital buildings were odd mixtures of efficiently arranged medical treatment spaces and inefficiently arranged nursing units. Nurses trudged up and down long, open wards that held 20 or more patients, or long, double-loaded corridors that connected smaller (six-, four- or two-bed) wards and private rooms. Service areas were at the far end of that walk; getting even basic supplies was a long hike. Pedometers proved that the daily distance was best counted in miles; some nurses averaged 8-10 per shift. In 1939, prominent Philadelphia doctor Joseph C. Doane drily observed that “some hospitals are apparently planned on the erroneous theory that nurses wing their way from distant service rooms to far off beds without incurring fatigue.”
This was the design dilemma that confronted Neergaard, an iconoclastic rising star in the brand-new profession of “hospital consultant” (doctors who advised building committees and architects on best practices). He proposed streamlining nursing unit design, keeping windows in the inviolable patient rooms, but prioritizing efficiency over direct access to sunlight and fresh air in the adjacent service rooms. His plan allowed two different nursing units (groups of patients overseen by one head nurse) to share the same windowless central service rooms, reducing spatial redundancy.
Neergaard calculated that this “double pavilion plan” required only two-thirds of the floor area of a traditional nursing unit layout. It also moved the service rooms closer to the patient rooms, drastically reducing a nurse’s daily travels. His design was a first foray into treating the hospital as if it were any other building. The structure was a tool, facilitating the delivery of medical care, not a therapy in itself.
Neergaard knew his ideas would be contentious. In 1937, his presentation at an American Hospital Association convention prompted the prominent hospital architects Carl A. Erickson and Edward F. Stevens to resign from a committee rather than be seen as supporting Neergaard’s proposals. One prominent hospital architect called the double pavilion plan “essentially a slum.”
Neergaard’s ideas, however, won out. Rising costs and decreasing revenue sources made reduction of hospital construction and operational budgets a fiscal imperative. Centralized design reduced the amount of expensive exterior wall construction, facilitated centralization of services, and minimized nurse staffing requirements by reducing travel distances. By the 1950s, with the advent of antibiotics and improved aseptic practices, the medical establishment also believed that patient healthiness could be maintained regardless of room design. Some doctors even preferred the total environmental control offered by air conditioning, central heating, and electric lighting. Windows were no longer necessary to healthy hospitals, and by the 1960s and 1970s even windowless patient rooms appeared.
The efficient, inhuman, and monotonous buildings of the second half of the 20th century bear witness to the extent to which hospital design became a tool to facilitate medicine rather than a therapy in itself. Today, a stay in a hospital room is endured, not enjoyed.
The pendulum, however, is still swinging. In 1984, hospital architect Roger Ulrich published an article that had one clear and influential finding: Patients in hospital rooms with windows improved at a faster rate and in greater percentage than did patients in windowless rooms.
Maintaining a healthy home goes beyond dusting and vacuuming. When is the last time you checked your smoke alarms? How about the last time you cleaned out your dryer vent? Follow the tips below to make sure your family and home are ready for a happy, clean spring season.
Grab a ladder, and check your gutters for debris. Remove as much as you can with your hands (Don’t forget to wear gloves!). Remove any leftover gunk with a garden hose. Take off any nozzle and have a helper turn on the water when you’re ready. Shove the hose into the downspout to power out of gooseneck bends. Make sure your downspouts channel water at least five feet from foundation walls.
Scrub Walls, Baseboards and Outlets
Scrub all the walls — in the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms and living areas — with a sponge or brush and mild soap and water. This includes baseboards and outlets. Make sure to completely dry outlet covers before replacing.
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Replace all filters including water, range hood and air vent filters. You should replace these filters every 3-6 months depending on the type of filter you have.
Clean Faucets and Showerheads
Unscrew the faucet aerators, sink sprayers and showerheads, and soak them in equal parts vinegar and water solution. Let them soak for an hour, then rinse with warm water.
Clean Out the Dryer Vent
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A clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. To clean it, disconnect the vent from the back of the machine and use a dryer vent brush to remove lint. Outside your house, remove the dryer vent cover and use the brush to remove lint from the other end of the vent line. Make sure the vent cover flap moves freely.
Wash Exterior Windows
Hire a window-cleaning service to clean all exterior windows.
Keep Allergens Away
Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos
A house with a crawl space has vents along the foundation walls. The vents provide air circulation that helps prevent excess moisture and mold growth, and they prevent critters from taking up residence underneath your home. The screens collect leaves and other debris from fall and winter. Spring is a great time to clean them out and check for damage. Clean the vents by hand or use a shop vacuum. Repair any damaged screens — critters can get through even the smallest holes.
Clean the Grill
Your grill has most likely collected dust during fall and winter. Help your grill live a long life with these maintenance tips, whether you have a charcoal or gas grill.
Prep Your Garden
You can’t have a successful garden without good soil. Follow these tips on how to prepare your soil to help you grow a lush garden.
Test Smoke Alarms
Test smoke alarms and CO detectors, and change out batteries as needed. It’s cheap, only takes a few minutes and can save your family’s lives.