Cost-Effective Detection of Multi-Family Housing-Related Health and Safety Hazards
Publication Year: 2017

HUD: Cost-Effective Detection of Multi-Family Housing-Related Health and Safety Hazards

This project tested and refined cost-effective methods for detecting health and safety hazards in affordable housing and compared these with and possibly augments conventional practices of identifying and mitigating such hazards. The researchers used sophisticated laser and infrared imaging equipment capable of seeing structural deficiencies, moisture, mold, breaches in insulation, insect harborages and vermin tracks at very detailed levels and, by leveraging building information models created from laser scan data, gaining systems level understanding of patterns of health and safety hazards. This work was conducted at two multi-family sites. Our approach proved helpful in identifying and mitigating areas of buildings where there are persistent likely systemic problems or ones that are difficult or expensive to identify via conventional inspection methods, and, if successful, would become a part of on-going property management protocols.

The methods have direct application to improvement of Integrated Pest Management protocols, mold prevention and control, and building design and operation practices for mitigation of other building deficiencies such as excessive draft and building material failure. Because the methodology provides a less intrusive means by which systemic hazards might be identified more expeditiously, the work will lead to improved knowledge about the occurrence and patterns of health related building deficiencies and enhanced resident quality of life for occupants of HUD assisted, HUD regulated, and other forms of lower-income housing. The results of scans were validated through comparison to air sampling of interior environments and interview data gathered from building occupants and operators and complaint logs if available. A re-calibrated imaging protocol was compared to conventional practices of building health and safety hazard inspection, and a best practice report on opportunities to integrate the technology into conventional practice will be developed.

Existing community based collaborative relationships have been leveraged to implement the work scope. These include an on-going working arrangement with Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) and residents of Intervale Green, the site of an ongoing Healthy Homes project. In addition, an advisory group of building operators and property managers has been formed, leveraging existing relationships at NYC housing agencies and private organizations to help vet and improve our research strategies and to disseminate the outcome information through the affordable housing management community.