Most prospective owners involved in the process of acquiring a hotel property understand that some renovations may be necessary, but aren’t prepared for hidden moisture and mold damage that will exponentially escalate repair costs. Unfortunately, this kind of oversight happens repeatedly during hotel transactions because the due process that is followed doesn’t include the

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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Do You Know the Vital Signs for Avoiding Moisture & Mold Problems?

Will Your Brand Standards Cause You Headaches?

How Will You Recover Costs If You Do Get Into Trouble?

Sign up for our free July 10 webinar on “Hotel Renovations: More Than Just Minding the Dust”.

The time has come to perform that next renovation cycle for your hotel. You have successfully lined up your team of property staff, designers, and contractors. You are pleased with the fresh look proposed by the designers. Work is scheduled around your occupancy rate and the first wave of workers is let loose. You are ready for success – until the unexpected happens. Hidden moisture and mold damage disrupts your schedule, delays your reopening, requires redesign work, and increases the construction budget with a multitude of change orders.

If you had seen this coming, your entire renovation strategy would have been altered from the beginning. But could you have seen it coming? Most likely….if you had checked the essential building vital signs. A hotel owner/operator should assess these markers as the first step in any renovation to determine the potential for hidden moisture and mold damage. Understanding those vital signs, as well as the possible negative impact of brand standards, is critical for success.


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Myth―An unproven or false collective belief

By J. David Odom and Richard Scott-AIA, NCARB, LEED AP of Liberty Building Forensics Group and Norm Nelson of CH2M

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If PTAC units were a federally regulated drug, then each equipment sale would include a list of side effects and cautionary notes. Unfortunately, the opposite is true—each PTAC buyer is provided with a list of unproven expectations and myths. It is these unproven PTAC performance myths, enduring for decades, which have contributed to an outsized number of moisture and mold problems.

Over the past 30 years, our building experts have investigated hundreds of hotel moisture problems (involving over 100,000 guest rooms) and in the process, have seen three repetitive problems that appear to be ignored by the hospitality industry:

  1. PTAC units cannot ventilate interior spaces.
  2. PTAC units cannot pressurize hotel guest rooms.
  3. PTAC units are often ineffective in dehumidifying hotel guest rooms, especially when outside conditions are hot and humid.

Even though PTAC units cannot provide these features, the myths are that hotel industry, including owners, operators, developers, contractors, and designers, believe that they can.
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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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Just months after completing refurbishment on a 300+ room resort, the owner of a luxury coastal vacation resort began to wonder if he had entered into the Twilight Zone when mold and moisture problems suddenly emerged in numerous guestrooms. He was perplexed that this problem was cropping up now despite the fact that he had owned and operated similar properties for many years. Never in all that time had he ever experienced moisture-related issues.

Why was the problem occurring at this point? What was different?


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Three major changes will impact the success of construction in Florida over the next decade. These changes began as trends during the last decade and have now evolved into requirements for construction professionals. This requires one to consider the risks of potential moisture problems and determine how to mitigate against these risk on the project. These risks are due in large part to changes in building code and how the industry is viewing the products that are being used in “green construction.”

  • There is a drive to certify products as “green” and this has substantially increased the risk of moisture problems when certain products are used. Knowing the anatomy of these products will help the construction professional alleviate this risk.
  • Green initiatives have become codified and are required now by code these for projects. It is a critical skill to be able to know the parts of the code that result in the greatest risks for causing moisture problems.
  • As the construction industry shifts from primarily a USGBC LEED® rating credit system to other rating systems like Green Globes there is a risk that comes from the introduction of confusion in the “green” marketplace and the construction industry. This confusion affects the contractor’s’ ability to communicate the needs and costs of green construction. This lack of communication can lead to budget and schedule overruns that are costly. The skilled professional will need to know which rating systems are critical for projects in humid climates and how to communicate the requirements of those rating systems to clients.


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In our work as forensic architects and engineers, we are regularly involved in litigation over stucco failures, including hotels and high-rise condo complexes. (For this article, ‘stucco’ refers to traditional portland cement plaster direct-applied to a masonry substrate, rather than using lath.)

Myths abound around stucco cracking. In truth, it is not abnormal to have some cracking with stucco, much of which can be relatively harmless. The key is paying attention to the types of cracks, and minimizing any significant issues that might lead to actual failure, including debonding, water intrusion, and mold problems. It is not a good idea to pack out stucco so thick it may end up debonding and falling on those Bentleys (and their owners) below.

Myth #3: Direct-applied stucco is easily packed out to meet a finished plane.


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In our work as forensic architects and engineers, we are regularly involved in litigation over stucco failures, including hotels and high-rise condo complexes. (For this article, ‘stucco’ refers to traditional portland cement plaster direct-applied to a masonry substrate, rather than using lath.)

Myths abound around stucco cracking. In truth, it is not abnormal to have some cracking with stucco, much of which can be relatively harmless. The key is paying attention to the types of cracks, and minimizing any significant issues that might lead to actual failure, including debonding, water intrusion, and mold problems.

Myth #2: Control joints are required every 13.5 m2 (144 sf).


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In our work as forensic architects and engineers, we are regularly involved in litigation over stucco failures, including hotels and high-rise condo complexes. (For this article, ‘stucco’ refers to traditional portland cement plaster direct-applied to a masonry substrate, rather than using lath.)

Myths abound around stucco cracking. In truth, it is not abnormal to have some cracking with stucco, much of which can be relatively harmless. The key is paying attention to the types of cracks, and minimizing any significant issues that might lead to actual failure, including debonding, water intrusion, and mold problems.

Myth #1: Stucco on lath over CMU/concrete is superior to direct-applied
 


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