It's safe to say that IICRC S-520 is the definitive standard for properly executing mold remediation. So if that's the case, why do we see so many companies not following it? Over the last 15 years of my career, I've spoken with hundreds of companies and have landed on one reason: money.
From jobs that need to be accomplished fast and cheap to satisfy a real estate transaction, to a competitive bid situation that requires "sharpening the pencil" to secure the commercial work, it seems many in our industry are willing to forgo quality for guarantee of the sale. So where is the real problem and how do we fix it?
I'd submit that while many contractors are good at what they do, a larger percentage may not always be the best a breaking down, or have the time to break down, technical information into step-by-step layman's terms educational materials that their customers can understand and use for comparison as they consider hiring a contractor. Site Assessment, Site Preparation, the Remediation Process itself and Recurrence Prevention are necessary for the success of every job, and each of those major steps of the process have four to six sub-steps with procedures attached to each. If customers are to receive the services that they need, we need to slow down and educate them on the details so that they're able to discern the value.
"If customers are to receive the services that they need, we need to slow down and educate them on the details first."
How is the need for remediation defined?
Within the S-520 standard, we come across three classifications of indoor spaces (as related to mold) known as Condition 1, 2 and 3 environments. Condition 1 is defined as a space where the spore count of the environment is equal to or less than that of the natural outdoor ecology surrounding the structure, and where there are no signs of visible mold growth. Condition 2 is defined as a space where the indoor mold spore ecology supersedes the exterior mold spore ecology but no visible mold growth is apparent. Condition 3 is defined as a space where the indoor mold spore ecology supersedes the exterior ecology and where visible mold growth is present. Environments where Condition 2 and Condition 3 exist require remediation.
What's the downside of spot-treating?
All mold begins as a microscopic spore. As mentioned previously, the goal is to maintain a building at Condition 1 status. However, as mold spores accumulate and the interior ecology of a space rises above the natural exterior ecology, corrective remediation services are required. Whether Condition 2 or Condition 3, all surfaces with a space must be cleaned in order to reduce the interior mold spore ecology. Spot treating assumes that only visible mold is a problem and ignores the mold spore ecology that produced the visible mold in the first place.
In addition, mold spores are extremely mobile, and are easily distributed by subtle air currents throughout an environment due to their low mass. The low mass and microscopic size work together to infiltrate everything from air handling systems and stored items to openings into the building envelope for plumbing and electrical.
The bottom line: Spot treating is not remediation and should be avoided both for the benefit to the customer as well as for the liability management (benefit) to the remediation contractor.
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