The Super Bowl was right around the corner, and much was at stake for this hotel. It was undergoing a room rehab with a hard deadline when an unforeseen mold and moisture problem brought work to a screeching halt..

Hotel renovation projects are often scheduled around upcoming events like large conventions or sporting events. For obvious reasons, these types of renovations typically have a hard deadline that cannot be missed. This puts a lot of stress on the construction and project management teams, who know that no matter what surprises may unfold during the rehab, the scheduled deadline must still be met. They must be able to overcome any obstacles while still keeping costs to a minimum.

CASE SUMMARY

This Midwestern project was a fast-track renovation of a 600-room hotel with a hard stop deadline of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. The renovation was intended to be a simple FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment) project to upgrade the hotel’s appearance and give it a fresh feel for patrons coming to town for the Super Bowl.

During rehab of the first few rooms, the construction team pulled back the vinyl wall covering only to discover an unexpected mold issue on the vast majority of exterior walls. Panic and uncertainty immediately ensued as the project team tried to determine what needed to be done, how much it would cost, and whether the deadline would still be able to be met.


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When it comes to building performance, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Humidification to provide medical patient comfort is a good thing. Frost and ice damage due to that same humidification is not so good.

When new building code requirements require high performance and innovation incentives, such as those found in green building rating systems, significant confusion and some building failure will ensue. This is the current situation that designers and contractors are facing in wall system air barrier design and performance. Overly complex and problematic exterior wall systems due to a market-driven design emphasis on energy savings, high performance, and innovation inevitably lead to increased risk and liability in all climates, and concern about mold and moisture damage in hot/humid climates.

Significant in 2012 was the issuance of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). This provided a vehicle for codifying many elements of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)® rating systems and ASHRAE standards that have been issued over the last decade. (Most of them have been released in just the last two years.)

The development of codes such as the IgCC are often based on collaboration through cooperating industry professional society sponsors. Despite the benefits of collaboration, high performance and innovation initiatives are often driven by code empirical laboratory analysis, which sometimes does not translate well to field applications. This codification is then pushed out to contractors, who unfortunately must then face the task of interpreting sometimes puzzling requirements that don’t always make sense or work in the field.


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There’s an assumption in the hotel industry that plaster walls are not susceptible to mold growth–but don’t let your guard down. Experts at Liberty Building Forensics Group (LBFG) helped guide a hotel renovation team that encountered an unsuspecting mold problem in the hotel’s plaster walls that could have cost millions of dollars in remediation and lost room revenue.

Mold growth is not seen as frequently on plaster walls as it is on gypsum wallboard, primarily because there are no nutrients to support mold growth (except for any dirt or dust that might be on the plaster). As a result, any mold growth on plaster walls is often not very visible or extensive, so most hotel owners and operators in this situation feel relatively safe from mold problems. It is important to realize, however, that what unexpectedly happened to this high-end hotel with plaster walls in the heart of Washington, D.C. could happen to anyone.

CASE SUMMARY

Hotel management was attempting to fast-track a renovation project because of a high demand for room nights in this particular location of Washington, D.C. Part of the renovation process involved removing all the old vinyl wall covering on the corridor walls and in the rooms themselves, then patching and repairing the underlying plaster with skim coats, allowing that to dry before installing the new vinyl wall covering.

Much to the dismay of everyone involved, mold was found growing behind the new vinyl wall covering while renovations were still ongoing. The mold was found growing primarily on the adhesive (which served as a nutrient), as well as on any dirt and dust that might have been on the plastered surface. This mold growth caused a discoloration of the vinyl wall covering, with pink stains appearing on both the room and corridor sides of the vinyl. The discoloration was noticeable to the hotel staff and would have been noticeable to guests as well, thus bringing this fast-track renovation to a halt.


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Avoid Catastrophic Mold and Moisture Problems in Hot, Humid Climates Due to Air Barrier Standard Confusion

By George DuBose, CGC; Richard Scott, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP; and Donald B. Snell, PC CIEC

Imagine the following scenario: you just designed your newest project to meet the most current whole building air leakage standards, and your mechanical engineer subconsultant has designed an HVAC system that includes one of the latest energy recovery strategies. Both factors are intended to meet high energy efficiency goals, making you proud that your firm is doing its part (amongst other things) to minimize your impact on the climate change problem.


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As the building and construction industry continues to come out of the hibernation that has been the norm since 2009, it unfortunately appears that it’s déjà vu all over again when it comes to water-related building failures. As new buildings are being constructed, the same design and construction deficiencies of the past are being repeated, leading to (often catastrophic) mold and moisture problems.

It may seem somewhat unbelievable that the industry still finds itself making these same basic mistakes time after time. After all, preventative solutions to these issues have been understood and well-published for many years.


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