The past month has been a hectic one for Homesteaders, as they have found themselves evacuated, relocated and eventually settled back into their home due to a higher-than-average mold count found in one of the cabins.
Beginning in mid-August, the six residents of Cabin Atlas, the newest and largest building on the Homestead built in 2013, started noticing signs of mold in the lower bedroom. Ivy Distler ‘19, a biology and studio art double major from Fort Worth, Texas, was one of the first residents to notice the problem. “My roommates and I noticed a really faint stain on the ceiling and mostly that our clothes never smelled clean.”
In previous years, the homestead has had issues concerning excessive moisture, but this time only Atlas contained evidence of mold. “The weather at the end of August was extremely hot and humid, and that was likely a contributing factor,” said Kimberly Byce, Homestead coordinator. “The building is designed to regulate temperature in a sustainable manner: the lower level is below grade and is backed by an unfinished concrete wall, which stores and releases heat. Condensation can form on this wall in hot weather, introducing moisture to the space.”
In response to the initial reports, Steve Gauger, the Director of Risk Management and Environmental Health, helped get the area tested for mold spores. At the time, the problem seemed as though it could be fixed with the regular use of humidifiers and a thorough cleaning of the space.
When the results came back, it was obvious that there was a bigger issue at hand. Weeks had gone by and the same issues appeared only to advance. It was then that they realized a professional intervention was needed. Luckily, all parties involved were able to come together to make the necessary transition as smooth and easy as possible.
“What seemed like an army of homestead caretakers came together to make sure we had all the resources we needed,” saied Distler, shedding positive light onto the situation. Faculty, too has viewed the temporary disruption as an opportunity to grow as a community. “I’ve witnessed all involved in this situation—faculty, staff and students—rise to the occasion, collaborating quickly and effectively to find solutions and support one another,” Byce went on to say.
Another fortunate aspect of being moved out of the Homestead was the fact that all Homesteaders were still able to live together in the Bancroft House thanks to the accommodating Student Housing team. “I don’t know how we would have fared being split up across campus.” Distler with this statement, Distler affirms the idea that community is a founding essential of homestead living- something that a minor inconvenience could not shake.
As of friday, the homesteaders are all moved back in. They’ll now have permanent dehumidifying strategies in order to keep the mold at bay. They’re also looking forward to voting in two new members to live with them. With two additional members they will be at maximum capacity and are happy about it.