A Pre-renovation Peer Review Could Have Prevented a Hotel’s Mold Problem

Mold growth was found behind newly installed vinyl wallcovering at a recently purchased hotel. The root cause could be traced back to a decision made just before the purchase of the hotel.
Mold growth was found behind newly installed vinyl wallcovering at a recently purchased hotel. The root cause could be traced back to a decision made just before the purchase of the hotel.

When it comes to catastrophic mold and moisture building failures, the design and construction industry uses litigation as its primary feedback system. Unfortunately, this reflects a failure to understand that good building performance starts early and is continuous throughout the design, construction and operation processes.

Peer reviews done during construction or just prior to a renovation project can build a bridge across the gap that often exists between what building designers and contractors know and what they need to know. This tool also serves to improve the communication between architects and mechanical engineers.

A peer review is basically introducing a subject matter expert (SME) into the design and construction processes— whether it’s new construction or a renovation. The SME helps to ensure the right people get the right information at the right time. There has been resistance to peer reviews in the design and construction community because, at face value, they appear to add an extra layer of consultants and unnecessary additional expenses that can only make the overall cost of the project go up.

Interestingly, however, other industries, such as health care, have learned that second opinions (peer reviews) actually lower costs and support better decision-making. An SME has the experience and knowledge to be confident there are less-costly options that can still achieve the desired project results. Peer reviews in the design and construction process have been shown to keep costs in check, especially in view of the tendency of architect and engineering practitioners who take a “belt and suspenders” approach to their building design in an effort to ensure that a mold and moisture problem does not occur.

If you’ve recently purchased a hotel (or were already an owner) and are about to undergo your first renovation in the existing building, it would be very worthwhile to conduct a peer review prior to beginning the project. You don’t want to stumble upon any unexpected mold or moisture issues, like the unfortunate new owner of the hotel in the following example did.

Now You Don’t See It; Now You Do

A mid-rise hotel in Florida had recently undergone a sale. The new owner, who was changing brands, was updating the furniture, fixtures and equipment to meet the new brand’s standards. This 400-plus-room hotel, located in a commercial district of Florida, was fairly basic in design with a corporate feel. Although there were no major influential factors present that would elevate the probability of a mold and moisture problem (such as being located next to a large body of water), the hotel was unexpectedly impacted by a severe mold problem behind new vinyl wallcovering that was installed during the renovation process.

What makes this particular case study so interesting is the fact that the Property Condition Assessment had not detected any mold in the building, nor had the construction team observed any mold as renovations began.

The mold problem was introduced during the first renovation phase in the first wing of the first floor. Within a week of the walls being finished with a skim coat and new vinyl wallcovering, mold was found growing behind the new vinyl. This was a bewildering development; the construction team had followed the manufacturer’s guidelines for the drying and installation of the new finishes.

Obviously, there was significant urgency because of the hotel renovation schedule and the threat that extended room outages posed. A distress call was issued to Florida-based Liberty Building Forensics Group and an investigation began.

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