Occurrence of moisture problems in schools in three countries from different climatic regions of Europe based on questionnaires and building inspections – the HITEA study


U. Haverinen-ShaughnessySenior Researcher, National Institute for Health and Welfare Environmental Health Department PO Box 95, 70701 Kuopio Finland
Tel.: +358-20-610-6362
Fax: +358-20-610-6497
e-mail: ulla.haverinen@thl.fi


Abstract  The aim of this study was to assess occurrence of dampness and mold in school buildings in three European countries (the Netherlands, Spain, and Finland), representing different climatic regions. An assessment was performed utilizing both questionnaires and on-site building investigations, and the agreement between these two methods was evaluated for validation purposes. On the basis of questionnaire data from a representative sample of schools, different types of moisture problems were reported in 24–47% of all school buildings at the time of the study. Most commonly reported was dampness in the Netherlands, moisture/water damage in Spain, and mold odor in Finland. Subsequently, 20–24 schools per country were selected for on-site inspections by trained staff. The overall agreement between the questionnaire and inspection data was good (kappa-value 0.62), however, with large differences (0.39–0.91) between countries. Extrapolating from the inspection data, the minimum estimates for prevalence of moisture problems in school buildings are 20% in the Netherlands, 41% in Spain, and 24% in Finland. In conclusion, moisture problems (such as moisture damage, dampness, and mold) are relatively common in schools. The occurrence and severity may vary across geographical areas, which can be partly explained by building characteristics.

Practical Implications

On the basis of this study, the prevalence of verified moisture problems in school buildings was highest in Spain, but lower and similar in Finland and the Netherlands. Questionnaire-based surveys can be used to assess moisture problems in school buildings, but because of large variation in agreement with inspection data, the questionnaire needs to be validated by on-site inspections in a subsample of the surveyed buildings.