Susceptibility of green and conventional building materials to microbial growth

“Susceptibility of green and conventional building materials to microbial growth”
Indoor Air journal, accepted for publication

Green building materials are becoming more popular. However, little is known about their ability to support or limit microbial growth. The growth of fungi was evaluated on five building materials. Two green, two conventional building materials and wood as a positive control were selected. The materials were inoculated with Aspergillus versicolor, Cladosporium cladosporioides and Penicillium brevicompactum, in the absence and presence of house dust. Microbial growth was assessed at four different time points by cultivation and determining fungal biomass using the N-acetylhexosaminidase (NAHA) enzyme assay. No clear differences were seen between green and conventional building materials in their susceptibility to support microbial growth. The presence of dust, an external source of nutrients, promoted growth of all the fungal species similarly on green and conventional materials. The results also showed a correlation coefficient ranging from 0.81 to 0.88 between NAHA activity and culturable counts. The results suggest that the growth of microbes on a material surface depends on the availability of organic matter rather than the classification of the material as green or conventional. NAHA activity and culturability correlated well indicating that the two methods used in the experiments gave similar trends for the growth of fungi on material surfaces.

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Hal Levin

Hal Levin is a research architect and leads the Building Ecology Research Group in Santa Cruz, CA.