Mold needs heat and moisture in order to live. In our experience, most kinds of non-masonry substrate can be damaged by mold. It makes no difference what the exterior cladding is made of. If water is getting through or around a building’s exterior cladding, or through or around the windows, doors or joints of an enclosed building, and that water reaches the sheathing and/or framing and is allowed to remain over an extended period of time, mold can grow in that environment and cause significant damage to building components. This type of damage is often very good proof of the type of consequential property damage that is covered by commercial general livability insurance policies insuring developers, general contractors and subcontractors.
There is disagreement in the scientific community about whether mold causes personal injuries. However, there is no question that mold can cause damage to building components. If mold is found inside a building owned by one of our clients, we may call a certified industrial hygienist to take samples of the mold that can be sent to a laboratory for testing. Stachybotris chartarum is generally regarded as the most dangerous mold, but elevated levels of virtually any mold may be cause for concern, depending upon the opinion of the certified industrial hygienist, or, if necessary in a severe case, a microbiologist who is a mold expert. Mold abatement is a common practice and can generally clean the building of the mold so that the damaged building components can be safely repaired or replaced.
We have seen some very dangerous situations involving mold damage. For example, we have seen a building more than 20 stories tall that was clad with a panelized exterior insulation and finish system (“EIFS”), a type of synthetic stucco. The metal frames of the panels slowly rotted away over a period of many years. It was proven at trial by an expert microbiologist who analyzed mold samples taken by a certified industrial hygienist that the mold secreted acids that had eaten away portions of many of the metal frames holding the EIFS panels, severely damaging them and destroying the structural integrity of many of the panels. The only thing preventing those damaged panels from falling off the building was the caulk inside the joints between the panels. The jury awarded millions of dollars in damages.
Mold is potentially dangerous and, when found by your engineer, architect or contractor, should probably be investigated by a certified industrial hygienist. Depending upon the results of the lab testing of the samples taken by the certified industrial hygienist, your forensic expert can design or specify measures to remove the mold and repair or replace the damaged interior and exterior building components.