Campus News

(Updated) President Fitzsimmons reveals cause of moisture in the University Inn; expert investigator did not visit campus

By Michelle Adams, Editor in Chief

The building expert who drew conclusions about causes of moisture in the University Inn dormitory (UI) did not step foot inside the building at all, though Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons announced his conclusions in an email last Thursday.

In an interview on Saturday, Joseph Lstiburek, a consultant hired by the University from the Building Science Corp., in Westford, Massachusetts, said problems in the University Inn that forced students to evacuate are because there is no central air, but rather units in each room that cause moisture to build.

University Inn Shenandoah University | The Buzz

The University Inn has been fenced off as renovations begin on the building. (Photo by Ghadah Alotaibi)

Not enough air circulation, and condensation that built in the summer when windows were open and the air conditioning was set at low temperatures, also contributed. Elevated moisture levels were reported in approximately 10 percent of the rooms in the UI,  Lstiburek said, and there was “no distinct pattern” as to which rooms or floors were affected.

Joseph Lstiburek | Courtesy of Green Building Advisor

Joseph Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng. (Photo courtesy of Green Building Advisor)

Lstiburek said in an interview that he examined “data, photos, [and] architectural plans,” and had several conference calls with University officials, before concluding that the elevated moisture levels were indeed grounds for removing residents from the UI. Lstiburek said that while there were “elevated spore counts” reported, the data he received was inconclusive as to whether mold is or was present in the residence hall. He did not say who gathered the data he examined.

In her email to students moved out of University Inn, Fitzsimmons called Lstiburek a “forensic engineer, building investigator, building science consultant, author, speaker, and widely known expert on building moisture control, indoor air quality, and retrofit of existing and historic buildings. The Wall Street Journal has referred to him as the dean of North American building science.’”

Fitzsimmons also noted in her email that the moisture was “not the result of any structural or system-wide issue in the building.”

While these issues were not major, according to Lstiburek, he was “quite impressed with the response” from the University about the issues.

To decrease the moisture levels, the renovations to the building, which have already begun, will include the addition of a dehumidifier in each room, as well as vents that operate on a timer, “so air is vented throughout the room at regular intervals,” as in many hotels, according to Fitzsimmons.

In addition to these renovations, the University is including several cosmetic improvements in renovations, including “floor coverings, paint, light fixtures, and bathroom” changes.

While the date of students’ return to the building is still unknown, “We are confident that students will be able to move back into the renovated UI before the start of the spring 2017 semester,” Fitzsimmons wrote.

Lstiburek’s firm, according to its website, conducts forensic investigations of buildings with mold, rot, decay, odors, uncontrolled humidity, and poor air quality. His firm has expertise and experience in conducting microbial, mold, and moisture investigations in airports, hospitals, courthouses, retirement communities, homes and warehouses in southern and humid climates. Lstiburek also makes repair recommendations.

This article was updated on 10/8/16 to reflect direct statements from Mr. Lstiburek.

The Buzz will continue to provide updates on the status of the University Inn as information becomes available. Visit this link for our full coverage.

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