Mold discovery holds up office space

Jake Kapsner

Facilities Management officials halted installation of temporary offices near the University Recreation Center this week after health inspectors discovered a potentially hazardous mold.
University Environmental Health and Safety inspectors found the infestation in the walls, ceiling and ducts of the leased office space. Facilities Management officials met with the vendor, Space Mobile and Modular Structures, Thursday and gave the company an ultimatum: Until everything with moisture damage is replaced, no lease payments will be made.
“Our stand is that the trailers were not formally accepted under the conditions of our lease,” said Keith Passow, facilities manager for Zone Six.
The inspectors found mold types that can aggravate pre-existing asthma conditions, said Craig Moody, the assistant director for the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.
If the space isn’t made usable, University lawyers will step in, Passow said.
Officials from Space Mobile and Modular Structures declined comment. School officials would not disclose terms of the lease or cost of the installation to date.
The one-story, brown building on the corner of Union and Beacon Streets was constructed as temporary office and storeroom space for the Facilities Management Zone Six section.
Zone Six maintains the Institute of Technology. Housed in Ford Hall, Architecture and the old Electrical Engineering building, the staff needs to move to make way for renovation projects, Passow said.
The moving process was delayed, however, when University Environmental Health and Safety officials confirmed a fungal infestation within the space comprised of nine interconnected trailers.
Health and Safety officials sent word Monday to Facilities Management recommending they rebuild the walls, duct work and flooring or simply not use the space.
“We prefer that they not move in. That was our first choice,” Moody said.
Nobody from the health and safety department checked the trailer units before they arrived on campus, Moody said. The department wasn’t asked until last week to look at the building.
Passow explained that the trailers were stored beneath tarps at the vendor’s Chaska, Minn., location during the winter, where they were last used as office space.
Not until workers tore out the carpet and began construction two weeks ago did they realize something was foul.
“I don’t think we would’ve or could’ve known there was something wrong with it beforehand,” said Steve Spehn, the department’s assistant director of Operations and Construction.
Until all nine trailers were bolted together on campus two weeks ago, Facilities Management officials had only seen two of them at the Chaska site, Passow said.
“They smelled musty when we looked at them in spring and assumed it was carpet at that point,” he said.