3 Energy Audit Horror Stories

by ‐ Tags: alternative energy, building science

In the spirit of Halloween, we wanted to share three examples of truly frightening findings from energy audits of multifamily properties. If you've seen these things at your property, it may be time for a building intervention.

mushrooms

Locally grown food: tasty and good source of nutrition, mushrooms are something that most people find in their fridge, not behind it.  These mushrooms had found a nice home behind the tenant's refrigerator.  It's surprisingly informative to look at what conditions would have led to this occurring.  Mushrooms get their nutrition from non-living organic matter, which was quite plentiful in the no-man's-land between the fridge and wall.  Mushrooms need water to grow, so there was a source of water from somewhere--likely a leak, but possibly from overexuberant dishwashing.  Also, they dry out easily and need higher humidity levels.  High humidity may have been caused by the source of water which resulted in a microclimate behind the fridge.   Or humidity levels may have been high in the whole apartment due to other circumstances such as oversized cooling equipment or poor ventilation. Air-sealing and installing a correctly sized cooling system helped to prevent future issues with fungi.

bullet holes

Ventilation and daylighting: having adequate fresh air is important for occupant health and comfort.  It's preferable when it comes from a controlled, known source instead of holes and cracks in the building envelope.  In this case, bullet holes provided a ready source of fresh air. In addition to improving the ventilation in the apartment, they also add natural light to a dark entryway.  The door was replaced and ventilation was properly implemented during the extensive renovations of the property.

Swimming pools: best enjoyed outdoors, but occasionally found indoors.  This one was a sizable pit found in the crawlspace of a building.  The amount of water in it indicated that there was either a fairly high water table or inadequate slope away from the foundation.  Crawlspaces often have high humidity levels.  There is often poor airsealing between them and the living space above, which contributes to higher relative humidity in the building.  Adding a pool of standing water exacerbates the situation and contributes to creating a rather hospitable environment for mold and termites, especially in the South, where this building was found.  The site was regraded to help keep water away from the foundation and the decision was made not to seal and condition the crawlspace in case that wasn't enough to keep the space dry.

crawlspace pond