The Weekly is STREAMING now. Join us at HorizonTV

Three forgotten truths about mold and moisture building failures

After over 25 years of figuring out why buildings end up as catastrophic mold and moisture building failures – there are some apparent truths that have remained seemingly unchanged. 

Sponsored content
September 04, 2018 |
George DuBose




Buildings should not be designed in silos (but they still are). Despite advances in technical understanding and higher standards for building performance, like building envelope airtightness, the design task for the building envelope is still being completed in a vacuum of other critical disciplines. On a recent project, the facade consultant was asked how their design interfaced with the overall building pressurization requirements established by the HVAC design. The answer: “We don’t consider that in our design. They do their thing and we do ours.”

Damp buildings are more troublesome than wet buildings. While wet buildings get a lot of focus in our business, damp buildings are the “bad hombres.” Damp buildings are a reflection of a chronic moisture problem. These kinds of problems may occur at a low frequency but the consequences are usually high. These kinds of projects tend to be catastrophic in damage, costs, loss of business, and maybe even your reputation, and potentially your job, as a professional in the industry.

The cost of the fix has a lot to do with if the building occupants trust in it (and you). Dr. Peter Sandman, famed expert in risk perception and outrage factors, has developed the equation:

Hazard = Risk + Outrage

In a mold and moisture building failure the cost of said fix follows this same pattern. Ultimately, the cost of a fix can be multiples of the actual cost of the technical fix. The difference is the level of trust the customer has in the fix and in you. Another way to put it:

Cost of the fix = cost of technical fix + level of distrust

So how can designers and contractors avoid these problems? Here are three project pinch points every architect should be aware of that can cause a catastrophic mold and moisture building failure:

1. Avoid silo design from happening on your next project. This takes more than something like BIM. Sure, this kind of tool is good, among other things, for making sure field conflicts don’t occur, but they don’t do a whole lot to address multidisciplinary building performance. Careful coordination between disciplines like the architect and HVAC designer must occur to ensure problems like wall systems, building air infiltration, and dehumidification do not become catastrophic.

2. Dampness is a sign of a chronic problem. Most damp building performance problems aren’t “seen” unless the impact of building systems are tracked over time, under various seasons, and in differing operating conditions. This is where things like air meet its wicked friend condensation.

3. Occupant outrage is one of the greatest influencers on the cost of fixing a building that you can encounter. J. David Odom and George DuBose, both Senior Consultants with Liberty Building Forensics Group (LBFG), found this out in the early 90s with projects like the Martin County Courthouse. Handling occupant confidence (or lack thereof) is one of the key areas any designer or contractor needs to get good at. If they don’t, they will see costs that are multiples of what the fix should cost.


Download related case studies here.


Author: Mr. George DuBose-CGC, an expert for Liberty Building Forensics Group (LBFG). LBFG has provided mold and moisture diagnosis and solutions for building owners, contractors and developers worldwide and has project experience in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe. 

George DuBose | All Things Moisture
Liberty Building Forensics Group

With over 25 years of experience, George H. DuBose is an expert in building sciences, diagnostics, and moisture problems. He is the co-author of over 15 technical publications, a monograph on moisture prevention for NCARB, and three manuals on moisture-related indoor air quality problems and building commissioning. Mr. DuBose is an experienced college lecturer on improving building performance, and has been a presenter at more than 50 seminars and webinars. He is the co-inventor of a hybrid fan coil unit (patent pending) and a past voting member of ASHRAE’s committee on building envelope performance. He was also a technical advisor to the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games (ACOG) to assist in the commissioning of the Olympic Village facilities.

Related Blogs

March 01, 2019 | All Things Moisture

Don’t let inexperience and the absence of viewing the building as a whole unit fail to protect you during t...

February 07, 2019 | All Things Moisture

Band-aid fixes are often applied to a hotel prior to selling to make the building more appealing. Catching...

January 28, 2019 | All Things Moisture

The Super Bowl was right around the corner, and much was at stake for this hotel. It was  undergoing a room...

January 21, 2019 | All Things Moisture

Mold growth is not seen as frequently on plaster walls as it is on gypsum wallboard, primarily because ther...

January 14, 2019 | All Things Moisture

When new building code requirements require high performance and innovation incentives, such as those found...

November 20, 2018 | All Things Moisture

Many building owners and operators rely solely on a property condition assessment (PCA) to determine if the...

View of PTAC unit removed from wall sleeve-room side is to right. Inset in upper left shows front view of unit in sleeve with cover removed. Supply fan draws unconditioned outdoor air (red arrows) into supply fan plenum. Fan also draws room return air (yellow arrows) through evaporator coil cooling room air (blue arrows). Unconditioned outside air mixes with conditioned room air and discharges to room (green arrows) through supply air louvers.

August 27, 2018 | All Things MoistureJ. David Odom and Richard Scott-AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Liberty Building Forensics Group and Norm Nelson, Jacobs Engineering

Over the past 30 years, building experts at Liberty Building Forensics Group (LBFG) have investigated hundr...

Mold growth is evident behind new VWC during room rehab work in this Tampa hotel; prior to rehab, mold was not present behind the existing VWC.

July 13, 2018 | Hotel Facilities | All Things Moisture

Do you know the vital signs for avoiding moisture & mold problems? Will your brand standards cause you...

Moisture damage around the bathroom exhaust fan from reverse air flow through the exterior wall cap

April 18, 2018 | All Things Moisture

Figure 1: The water-based mastic stayed wet (tacky to the touch) for weeks because the covered ductwork did not allow the mastic to dry, resulting in mold growth.

March 02, 2018 | All Things Moisture
Overlay Init