Education & training, qualification, and research

YHA Kuvapankki / Riku Lumiaro

Structural Physics 2013


Tampere University of Technology, the Department of Civil Engineering (TUT) and  the Finnish Association of Civil Engineers (RIL) will organise the Structural Physics 2013 seminar in Tampere, on 22-24 October 2013.

This seminar will bring together top specialists in the field and present best practice solutions and the results of the latest research.

An Award for Moisture Proof Construction [Award for Moisture Safety in Construction] will be presented for the first time at the seminar. This award is intended to emphasise the crucial role of moisture management during construction, and of the technical requirements for moisture performance of building structures in the construction of safe, healthy and durable buildings. The objective of the contest is to highlight best practices, implementation methods and products that are aimed at improving the moisture safety of buildings. Both new structures and renovation work are eligible for entry into the contest.

The organisation committee will accept nominations for the recipient of the Award for Moisture-Proof Construction [Award for Moisture Safety in Construction] and proposals for presentations until 13 May 2013. Instructions on nominations and for submitting presentation proposals are found in the appended brochure. Additional information is also available at http://www.ril.fi/fi/koulutus/seminaarit.html (in Finnish)

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Final project report on training and developing qualifications completed


One of the programme's most ambitious tasks has been completed. Recommendations for organising training and qualifications for the moisture and mould damage sector in Finland have been finalised and the project's final report has been published. The project recommends establishing four professional positions and three qualification levels. The recommendations are the result of two years of work by more than a hundred volunteers. The project was led by Helmi Kokotti, Construction Engineer/PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland.

The proposal is aimed at renewing the training and qualification system in the moisture and mould damage sector. The work on the proposal was carried out through extensive cooperation among central government, institutes of higher education and the construction industry's member organisations and training providers.

Three main goals were quickly encapsulated for the project: firstly, regulatory provision for the qualification requirements of home inspectors and an increase in the number of qualified specialists; secondly, to take the contents of current, but separate, training programmes and integrate them into a single field of competence. The third goal was to establish titles for various specialists and specify their job descriptions in such a way that their roles become mutually complementary.

Four professions, three levels of competence

YHA Kuvapankki / Jari Kurvinen

The proposed solution would divide moisture and mould damage specialists into four professional positions: moisture damage inspectors, repair planners, administrators/supervisors and repairmen. Three competence levels (AA, A and B) would be established for the first three professions.

It would be crucial to build a unified process for repairing moisture and mould damage, with the required special expertise being involved at every stage. Here, special expertise refers to expertise in both construction engineering and the indoor environment; to date this combination has been rare in renovation projects. "Training for the various qualifications in the sector would be modulated, and prior experience and existing expertise would be taken into account when granting the qualifications", says Helmi.

The working group proposes that Fise Oy and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland be responsible for granting and registering qualifications in this sector.

Cooperation between the project's participants will continue, and the various parties are prepared to put these proposals into practice, if the new system gains official recognition and resources from the public authorities.

A growing sector of special expertise in Finland

YHA Kuvapankki / Pentti Hokkanen

Every year, an estimated 25,000 building industry professionals undertake moisture damage repairs in Finland. Demand for special expertise is constantly increasing, as the need for repairs rises and experienced professionals retire. The value of the renovation backlog for the current building stock is estimated at EUR 30-50 billion.

Special expertise in the moisture and mould damage sector is very scarce worldwide - an efficient training system could even turn such expertise into an export product for Finland. The key issue is to restore property owners' faith in the entire service chain of the sector. For this purpose, a readily identifiable profession with uniform training and qualifications, and which takes pride in high-quality work, is needed.

Final report of the project found here (in Finnish).

Additional information is available from:

Programme to Combat Moisture and Mould Damage
Juhani Pirinen, Programme Manager
Tel. +358 50 572 6351
juhani.pirinen(at)ymparisto.fi

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TOXTEST completed - no new method discovered for identifying mould infestations


Despite high hopes, the TOXTEST research project was unable to create a new method for detecting mould infestations in buildings with moisture damage. The objective of this extensive three-year project was to develop a toxicity evaluation method suitable for dust samples taken from indoor air. The TOXTEST final report was presented at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on 6.3.2013.

In particular, it proved to be more challenging to take samples than expected. Dust samples were collected for the study from buildings where severe moisture damage had been discovered and where inhabitants had obvious symptoms of exposure, and from a control group of buildings. Upper surfaces were vacuumed to collect settled dust, swipe samples were taken, and sampling boxes and settle plates were used from which samples were collected. The collected samples were then washed with a solvent and the toxicity of the substances extracted was measured using various methods. The results were compared to data on the level of moisture damage in the buildings and the symptoms exhibited by the inhabitants. The hypothesis proposed was that dust from moisture-damaged buildings would exhibit more toxicity than dust samples taken from the control group.

The results demonstrated that toxicological measurements of household dust cannot clearly differentiate symptom-inducing properties from an almost symptom-free control group. The final report states that, based on the results, dust toxicity measurements cannot as yet be used for prioritising the renovation needed in buildings with moisture damage, or for evaluating the danger to health posed by such buildings. Another point to be taken into account is that symptoms of inhabitants of buildings with moisture damage may not have been caused by the toxicity of substances in household dust.

The study results suggest that sampling methods require further refinement, since currently available methods for collecting dust are ill-suited to toxicological analyses. For example, taking samples directly from indoor air may be preferable to collecting dust samples, but the related method requires further development.

The three-year TOXTEST research project was implemented as part of the Programme to Combat Moisture and Mould Damage, and was directed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Participants in the project included Finland's leading experts in toxicology and microbiology from the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the University of Helsinki, the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Turku and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Additional information is available from:

Jari Keinänen, Director
Department of Promotion of Welfare and Health, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
tel. +358 50 354 7138

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health press release, 6 March 2013 (in Finnish)

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Audit Committee of the Finnish Parliament commissions an extensive study into moisture and mould problems


The Audit Committee of the Finnish Parliament has launched a study of the causes and impacts of moisture and mould problems in buildings. The aim of the study is to examine these issues and produce fresh, topical information on the extent and causes of moisture and mould problems and to chart the impacts of this problem on the national and public economy. The study also assesses the impacts of measures already taken.

The Audit Committee also wishes to analyse the effects of moisture and mould problems that will emerge if development remains on its present course. Factors to be studied include the development of the repair backlog and the problems' future detrimental effects on health, the national economy, and the public economy.

‘Parliament's Audit Committee is addressing a very important issue and supporting the work of the Moisture and Mould Programme commendably. Personally, I regard the future as the key research subject. If the number of mould problems and other indoor air quality issues remains this high, or even increases as the repair backlog increases, how ill and incapacitated for work will future generations be? How can we increase the number of years at work and enhance coping at work if the conditions in homes, day-care centres, schools, and the workplace deteriorate even further? These scenarios are not necessary for intimidating people but simply aid in understanding the sheer magnitude and impressiveness of the issue at stake with mould problems,' comments Juhani Pirinen, Programme Director of the Moisture and Mould Programme.

The study of moisture and mould problems is the fourth subject on which the Audit Committee is commissioning a study from an independent expert. The previous studies have been on the accuracy of tax income forecasts (in 1998-2007), the size of Finland's shadow economy (2009), and supervision of the state's ownership steering (2010).

A research team from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health was appointed to conduct the study through competitive bidding. The team of researchers, led by Professor Kari Reijula, comprises experts in several fields of science.

The study, examining the building stock of the whole of Finland, is due for completion by August 2012.

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Education & training, qualification, and research

An estimated 25,000 building professionals have to handle moisture damage repairs in Finland every year. The moisture and mould damage sector offers increasing employment potential, but there is no uniform, systematic training and qualification system available for professionals in the field. In fact, moisture and mould damage repairs often fail because the entire chain of competence is defective, from investigation to planning, repair, and supervision. The project aims to create a uniform training and qualification path for the moisture and mould damage sector, in cooperation with different actors. The system will be established in cooperation between central government, higher education institutions, and organisations in the construction sector.

The programme will implement numerous studies and reviews. Objectives include finding faster and more secure tools for establishing and locating any health risks. The aims of research efforts include a uniform guideline for authorities to establish, assess, and monitor health risks. The most extensive project, the three-year TOXTEST, aims to develop a practical toxicological measuring method suitable for samples taken from an indoor environment. The research project, led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, is implemented in cooperation between the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, and the University of Helsinki.

More information:

Education, training and qualification:
Helmi Kokotti, University of Eastern Finland
Tel. +358 50 406 0389
helmi.kokotti(at)uef.fi

Research:
Jari Keinänen, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Tel. +358 50 354 7138
jari.keinanen(at)stm.fi