As the building''s trusted partner and expert on cleaning and maintenance issues, you may well be the first person to whom the owners or managers turn when there is a mold problem.
How you respond to this request will require some honest self-reflection.
We know that you want to help and that there is money to be made, but be careful and proceed at your own peril.
If you have experience performing water damage restoration, asbestos abatement or even construction mold remediation, it may be a nice fit for you.
But, for many cleaning and maintenance companies, mold remediation is most likely a new and demanding technical challenge.
There are some possible issues you would be opening yourself and your company up to if you jump into mold remediation without doing your homework.
The following are some instances you might encounter:
• Potential for litigation
Alleged "health issues" are often the factor that draws attention to the issue.
• Tag, you''re it
Unless you have the necessary experience and expertise, resist the temptation to take immediate action.
Do not attempt to mitigate or cover-up the problem, as improper methods may spread the problem through cross-contamination.
The last person who touches it shoulders the blame.
Mold remediation work requires training, equipment and experience.
Either decide to jump in and adequately prepare for the task or decide to stay out.
• Shrinking profits
The highly lucrative "mold is gold" days are over.
Mold remediation work can be highly competitive.
• Which playbook will you follow?
Are you aware that multiple guideline documents and an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) mold remediation standard exist?
• Don''t forget the air handling system
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system may be the source of the problem or a transportation conduit for microbial contamination.
Proficiency and profitability are gained from work experience.
Mold remediation isn''t just cleaning; it often combines construction work and cleaning techniques.
• Unique nomenclature
Mold remediation and indoor environmental contracting — asbestos, lead, etc. — has a vocabulary of its own.
You and your employees will need to become fluent in that vocabulary.
Mold remediation has unique insurance requirements; the risk of "pollution and contamination" isn''t covered by standard commercial insurance policies.
To avoid the perception of "conflict of interest," it isn''t unusual for a third-party consultant to prepare a remediation plan for the remediation contractor.
Locate an experienced indoor environmental professional or Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) with a reputation for being knowledgeable, practical and reasonable if you decide to get into mold remediation.
When you cut into walls, projects never get smaller; instead, they tend to grow and take on a life of their own.
• Are you committed?
Providing mold remediation will require full-time, well-trained, fluent employees to perform and supervise the projects.
They will also need to be able to communicate effectively with occupants and owners.
Are your people up to the task?
A Specialized Approach
Our experience tells us that building maintenance firms are often times geared to repetitive operations.
Mold remediation projects are one of a kind.
We opine that considering diversification into mold remediation may be too narrow of an approach.
Don''t be discouraged: While the need for mold remediation firms is either static or declining, the need for indoor environmental professionals is growing.
We encourage you to address the opportunity by considering a broader approach.
Building occupant complaints about indoor environmental quality (IEQ) can often be narrowed down to three causes: Chemicals, particulate and biological.
We advise you to consider becoming a diagnostician.
Learn about the causes of indoor environmental problems and effective remedial strategies.
Why do we suggest this approach?
First, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
In other words, if your knowledgebase is limited to dampness and mold, every indoor air quality (IAQ) problem will look like a mold problem.
While many IEQ problems are dampness related, just as many — if not more — are related to other issues such as lighting, ventilation, chemicals and particulates.
We suggest that all maintenance firms gain general knowledge on IEQ and comfort issues.
This knowledge will provide guidance to better manage business risks, will serve as an aid in retaining existing accounts and will build a solid foundation upon which to market and build profitable new business.
We advise investing in the training or recruitment of a dedicated in-house specialist in IEQ.
With a combination of a solid foundation in IEQ, good listening and communication skills, your IEQ specialist will guide and assist building owners in finding solutions.
Your IEQ specialist will also know when a project is beyond your capabilities and know when and who to call in when an expert or expertise is needed.
Your IEQ specialist''s technical skills can also be profitably harnessed for sales and marketing.
Cliff Zlotnik has 40 years of experience in odor removal, disaster restoration, microbial remediation and formulation chemistry, and is the co-host of IAQ Radio. Zlotnik can be reached at CZlotnik@CS.com. Joe Hughes has 25 years of experience as an indoor environmental professional and training provider. He is president of IAQ Training Institute LLC and co-host of IAQ Radio. Hughes can be reached at Joe.Hughes@IAQTraining.com.