5 min read

Opening Up After a Shutdown

Published on
May 18, 2023

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Mold may be the more serious issue

During the pandemic, many commercial businesses, government buildings, etc. were shut down for an extended period of time. Pandemic aside, a potentially bigger issue of “re-opening” these previously vacant buildings may be the elevated “Mold Load” of the building. Just as vacation homes or properties have an increased level of mold growth, as noted through experience, facilities that have been vacant are going to face similar issues.

Why is this? First of all, homes and buildings are meant to be occupied. They are engineered to receive the correct amount of fresh air, maintain a fairly consistent humidity level, and temperature level, and receive periodic housekeeping. All of which, fall by the wayside when a facility or home is vacated. It’s a little bit frightening to realize that all homes and buildings are right on the edge of what we call a “mold bloom”. In other words, just a few humidity points higher, a little less airflow, and a little more temperature extremes can cause all kinds of problems. Additionally, plumbing systems that have been neglected all have potentially dried out P-traps. P-traps, as simple as they are, are the only thing that seals the indoor space from the municipal sewer system. That few inches of water at the bottom of the “P”, is critically important for healthy indoor environments. As they sit with no new water introduced through the floor drains, the sinks, etc., they obviously dry out. This means that there is no longer a seal between the indoor environment and the sewer. Sewer gases, bacteria, and fungi will all participate in entering the air. Not a pleasant thought, but certainly a reality.

The Center for Disease Control has instructed the public, on their website, about the dangers of a shutdown or vacant building. The temporary shutdown or reduced operation of a building and reductions in normal water use can create hazards for returning occupants. Check for hazards before reopening after a prolonged period of building inactivity. It continues by reasoning that for mold, a prolonged period may be days, weeks, or months depending upon the type of building, season, weather, and other variables. Most buildings are going to have an elevated “mold load” when reopening.

Ways to prevent this are a little bit like getting the toothpaste back into the tube. It may be too late to adjust the HVAC, thermostat, or add water to the traps to stop the unhealthy condition; so what are the options? Pure Maintenance treatment on a facility or a home is the ideal way to lower the “mold load” of a building before re-entry.