Moisture Control in Commercial Buildings

Moisture Control in Commercial Buildings

Excess moisture plagues commercial buildings throughout Nigeria from the moist Southern seaboard cities such as Lagos and Port Harcourt to the semi-arid Northern cities such as Abuja and Kano. Regardless of your location, the studies in other parts of the world have found that almost 85 percent of commercial buildings face water damage at some time during their lifetime. That is an astounding statistic when the majority of this damage is not from flood waters but from airborne condensation. It is therefore important that buildings are air-tight to prevent infiltration of moisture into buildings through crevices and openings in the exterior building envelope and those created as a result of services penetration through walls. Damage occurs either when water gets trapped in the building materials over time through the process of oxidation or via condensation when the hot infiltrated air comes in contact with cooled air in the building. In cellulose-based building materials, the results are rot, odour and mould contributing to poor indoor air quality. Many building materials contain some cellulose. If these materials remain wet, they begin to deteriorate quickly. But if you can get the water vapour and condensation away from these materials quickly, they will continue to work well.

So what do you do to protect your commercial building? Work with professionals only throughout the building’s life cycle. Architects, HVAC designers, contractors, and building facility management staff play major roles in controlling moisture in commercial buildings. Firstly, architects should design commercial building envelope to be leak-proof to minimize unusual moisture infiltration through walls, ceilings and floor. Building engineers and other professionals should utilize the building envelope’s leak-proof parameters in their own design and installations to further control moisture by:

  • Avoiding double vapour retarders
  • Avoiding vinyl wall covering on exterior walls – Use vinyl wall coverings only on internal separating two spaces rather than walls adjacent to outside spaces
  • Ensuring exterior walls do not absorb or store liquid water – this requires careful design and detailing of elements and maintenance of the wall over its life cycle
  • Ensuring outdoor air required for ventilation is pre-treated
  • Specifying airtight duct work
  • Avoiding oversized cooling equipment
  • Ensuring the right air-conditioning equipment is recommended
  • Avoiding taking outdoor air from building exterior walls
  • Utilizing ducted return as much as possible rather than using ceiling as return plenum
  • Sealing all openings around the building exterior walls
  • Sealing all duct work and its connections
  • Replacing make-up air and outdoor air intake filters frequently
  • Ensuring continuous dehumidification
  • Tuning the cooling system for dehumidification

CA Consultants Limited has worked with architects and commercial building owners to minimize economic losses from moisture damages in several commercial buildings. Recent projects include:

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