The Hidden Risks of Green Buildings: Why Moisture & Mold Problems are Likely

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February 13, 2008

Most new products are experiments and most experiments fail
Quote from “How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built
by Stewart Brand (1994)

The great irony of building green is that the very concepts that are intended to enhance a building's performance over its lifetime are many of the same things that also make it highly susceptible to catastrophic moisture and mold problems during the first few years of operation.

Improved energy conservation, increased thermal insulation, and the use of innovative products are some of the things that make buildings green and sustainable. Coincidentally, they are also some of the things that make buildings susceptible to future failure—especially to major moisture and mold problems.

While green buildings have many positive benefits there is also strong evidence to suggest a direct correlation between new products, innovative design, and building failures. Simply put—departing from the tried and true often means increasing the risk of building failure, and this risk dramatically increases in demanding climates.

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The proliferation of new products and innovative building approaches will virtually guarantee an increase in building problems—many of which will be predictable and some of which are likely to be catastrophic. These risks increase for buildings located in warn/humid, rainy, or very cold climates; in fact, all climates that are historically considered higher risk for building problems. 

Over the next several years the ability to correctly implement green concepts will likely become the single most important determining factor between success and failure in many firms, whether they are designers, contractors, owners, product manufacturers, or developers.

This article identifies the specific reasons that green buildings are at increased risk for failures and what designers, contractors, and developers/owners must do to avoid problems. In short, what “best practices” are being promoted as green but are also “higher risk” practices.

For a copy of the full article, including a test that will provide continuing education credits with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards please visit:

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