It seems that every week another education institution discovers the presence of toxic mold in a school building. Whether this is a result of increased awareness and more diligent inspection, or a troubling trend in building/system design and overall maintenance effectiveness is debatable.
But the fact is, mold and indoor environmental quality in schools is evolving into a major issue — forcing institutions to react by spending substantial amounts of money on remediation or, in worst-case scenarios, abandoning the affected building and scrambling to relocate students.
The increased focus on mold has gotten the attention of lawmakers. A variety of state and federal mold legislation either has been enacted or is under discussion — laws and bills that create task forces, authorize studies and enact protection procedures.
At the federal level, The United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act (HR 5040), which also is called The Melina Bill, is the first federal legislation to address indoor mold contamination. The bill empowers the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research on the health effects of mold, as well as develop guidelines regarding mold investigation and remediation. It also authorizes grants for mold removal in public buildings. To download the complete bill, visit www.house.gov/conyers/Mold_Bill.pdf.
In addition, there is a concerted effort by various governmental agencies and groups to link building and design professionals with the medical community to improve the indoor environment. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Engineer's Professional Advisory Council's Subcommittee on Building Design and Construction is advocating a Healthy Buildings Initiative (HBI). According to sources, while the issue is gaining support within the architectural, engineering and construction disciplines, it is generally not incorporated into National Health Goals. The subcommittee is advocating that the HBI be reflected in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) priorities for fiscal years 2003-08.
The subcommittee's efforts have attracted the interest of some in the medical community. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General will be conducting a Healthy Buildings Workshop that will address the Healthy Buildings Initiative.
While there have been a number of studies attempting to show a correlation between the school facility and its impact on the learning environment, determining a building's potential health effects on occupants is an important step — and should provide valuable insight on design, construction and materials selection for education facilities.
Look for your chance to participate in American School & University's 29th annual Official Education Construction Report. Survey forms will be arriving in the mail shortly.
Median enrollment of education institutions in the United States.
Years experience of the typical education administrator.
Median number of buildings on a school district/college campus.
Median total square footage of all buildings in a district/college campus.
Percentage of education administrators that have Internet access at work.
Source: 2002 American School & University Reader Profile Study