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Credit: Sunny Jang

In fall 2018, multiple Penn students left their rooms in the Quad and had to be relocated because of mold found in their rooms. Now, a year later, Penn Residential Services say there are no large-scale mold problems in the Quad.

In October 2018, about 100 residential rooms in the Quad had evidence of mold, moisture, and mildew. The health hazard forced more than 10 students to relocate to nearby hotels for a week. Since then, Penn has replaced roofs, reinforced pipes, and reinstalled ceiling tiles in Quad rooms.

“We went into every student room, cut out the drywall, reinsulated the pipes, and put new ceiling tiles back in,” Penn Residential Services Director Patrick Killilee said. “We also did extensive work on the exterior, during the last academic year and over the summer. We replaced portions of the roof and parts of the building.”

Credit: Felicity Yick

With the renovations done over the last academic year and over the summer, the amount of mold found in students' rooms is down significantly this year, Killilee said. Penn Student Health Service Executive Director Giang Nguyen also said Student Health Service received fewer complaints or concerns regarding mold this semester.

The mold issues were a result of condensation building up from air conditioning units, Killilee said, adding that it “was exacerbated by the unusual wet weather that we had last summer and fall,” referencing Philadelphia's record-high rainfall in 2018. In response, Penn Residential Services identified the areas in the Quad that needed maintenance to prevent moisture from coming into student rooms. 

“The insulation on those pipes were over 20 years old, and in some cases, they were starting to fail and when that happens, the condensation will drip into the soffit, creating wet drywall,” Killilee said.

However, mold can never be entirely prevented in the Quad, Killilee and Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger said.

“We will always get calls and people say there are molds and we can't prevent that. There is always mold in the air naturally,” Killilee said. 

“There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors, but you can help prevent them from being problematic,” Student Health Service Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter said.

Credit: Felicity Yick

While Penn Residential Services discovered many rooms had issues with mold during 2018's fall break inspection, Lea-Kruger said, they don’t expect to find mold in the Quad during this year's inspection that took place over fall break.

“Last year, we knew about it ahead of time and we went into fall break knowing that we had some issues with mold, but we are not anticipating that this year,” Lea-Kruger said.

Killilee also said Penn Residential Services reached out to students living in the Quad to ensure they remained informed.

“We gave a slip to everyone saying this is what you can do to prevent mold, so we did a lot of education,” Lea-Kruger sad.

Students looking to avoid mold in their rooms should keep the windows closed to prevent condensation and maintain the room temperature between 70℉ and 76℉, Halbritter said. Penn Residential Services administrators also advised students to report any facilities-related issues through the online maintenance form or their college house information centers.

“If the students don't let us know, sometimes things get worse than what they would have been,” Lea-Kruger said.

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