Friday, October 10, 2008

Wanted: Buildings that build pests out

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 An example of termite-proofing, once the concrete is poured around them, these collars will prevent termites from entering the building through the foam insulating sleeves surrounding copper and PVC plumbing pipesconstruction 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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I moved from food manufacturing plants where you could refer to books like 'Engineering for Food Safety and Sanitation' by Thomas J. Imholte ISBN 0-918351-00-6, to working for public housing. I have also been looking for publications on residential design standards that promote pest proofing. The few offerings I have found on the web are too general to be of any use.
"Seal openings where utilities pass through walls" may make sense to someone dealing with pest, but it may have a totally different meaning to an architect or building contractor. What is needed is a precise and detailed procedure (with examples) of how to seal an opening. Another example would be 'eliminate roosting sites for birds'. Most designers would have no idea how to do that, or even an understanding of where birds roost. I have the attention of upper management here at Denver Housing Authority in regard to incorporating designs and standards to interior and exterior designs to avoid or lessen pest problems. The difficulty is that they think this sort of discipline should already be defined and published.
I could sure use your help if you know of any work (especially published) in this area.
I would also be willing to help in anyway I could to help in this area. I would welcome any comments you could offer.
Tom Barnard