Anyone who's worked long enough in pest control has come up with bright ideas about how to do pest control better. It's called building a better mousetrap.
My current mousetrap idea is that we need to figure out how to get some of our brightest architects, engineers and code enforcement professionals to sit down together and come up with better ways to build a truly pest-proof building. Furthermore, if we were really smart, we'd market the ideas as part of the current green building movement.
And why not? Once you have a building that is either (1) very difficult for pests to get in, or (2) extremely uncomfortable for the pests that do get in, you should find yourself needing far fewer pesticides (cleaner air) and the cost of building maintenance should go down. Both clean air and reduced building maintenance costs are important to the goals of green design.
So why don't we do this? It's not because of a lack of ideas or know-how.
To pick just one pest challenge, we know a lot about ways to termite-proof a building. A quick Google search reveals, for example, that NCSU entomologist, Mike Waldvogel has a nice online guide to termite proofing a home. Building code experts have struggled with termite-proofing issues for years. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control has a publication about Florida's code requirements for new construction to prevent termite damage. The National Institute of Building Sciences has an interesting website on a concept they call whole building design. This group secured government funding to develop a web portal on the concept, including information on termite proofing.
The concept should apply as well to all sorts of pests including rodents, cockroaches, a variety of crawling insects, birds, bats and other wildlife.
So why don't we do the things we know work well to save the consumer or business money, and reduce our need for pesticides? I think there are many reasons that pest proofing has not gained greater acceptance in the field of building design. For one, building a pest proof building is not as sexy or high profile as an avant-garde design, or a building with high energy efficiency or even one built using recycled materials.
Another important reason is that there is currently no good venues for pest management specialists and architects and engineers to sit down and talk with each another. Entomologists and pest management specialists traditionally have their meetings, and architects and engineers have their separate meetings. Rarely do paths cross.
Last February our office held a meeting with folks from around the country to discuss some of these issues. About 40 experts in pest management, architecture and engineering participated in a three-day seminar to share ideas on designing pest-proof public and commercial buildings. We discussed how integrated pest management concepts could be blended with green-building designs. Lots of good ideas were shared, but, unfortunately, comparatively few architects and engineers were able to participate.
We hope to try again next year at the 6th International Symposium on IPM, to be held in Portland, OR. If you know of anyone with a special interest in this area, you can tell me about it through the comment button on this post. I am especially interested in connecting with people who have expertise in building engineering, architecture and building codes. It can be a long process to build a better mousetrap, but it's one that's worth pursuing.